Autistic Teens Often The Victim Of Bullying
September 4, 2012

Childhood Bullying Significantly Higher For Autistic Teens

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

A new study published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine finds that many teenagers affected with some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are bullied at school, much more than the estimated 11 percent of teens bullied in the general population.

Teens who are bullied, previous studies discovered, tend to be more depressed, lonely and anxious and do worse in school than those who aren´t picked on, according to the researchers. This makes coping with daily life even more difficult for those with autism, who may already face more struggles than your ordinary teen.

Paul R. Sterzing, the study´s lead author from the University of California, Berkeley says, “I would argue that the bullying interventions that we´re using now, if not tailored, are ineffective.” Sterzing suggests schools should target anti-bullying campaigns at vulnerable populations, such as children with autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

He added that the problem may also grow along with the number of kids being diagnosed with autism. Currently, an estimated one in 88 US children has an autism spectrum disorder, which includes autism and Asperger´s syndrome.

The prevalence of bullying involvement for adolescents with an ASD was 46.3 percent for victimization and was “substantially higher” than the 10.6 percent national prevalence estimates for the general adolescent population.

The rates of perpetration of bullying (14.8 percent) and victimization/perpetration (8.9 percent, i.e. those who perpetrate and are victimized), were about equivalent to national estimates found among typically developing adolescents, according to the study results.

This study confirms what we know,” Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami and associate director of the school´s Mailman Center for Child Development, told HealthDay.

“It´s clear that kids with disabilities are much more likely to be victims of bullying,” he said. “We need to figure out better ways to prevent this -- for all children.”

Victimization was related to having a non-Hispanic ethnicity, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, lower social skills, some form of conversational ability, and more classes in general education.

Perpetration was correlated with being white, having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and getting together with friends at least once a week. Victimization/perpetration was associated with being white non-Hispanic, having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and getting together with friends at least once a week, the results indicate.

“When kids have special vulnerabilities, rather than being protected, often times they´re preyed upon,” added Dr. Victor Fornari, director of the division of child/adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “Autistic kids are victimized more than typical kids.”

“They are vulnerable because they are stigmatized and picked on more regularly. So parents need to be on the lookout.” Parents also have to be aware that their child can be both a victim and a bully, Fornari told Healthday

Debra J. Pepler, who researches bullying among vulnerable children at York University in Toronto but wasn´t involved in the new study, told Reuters Health there are some strategies that may help reduce bullying toward autistic children. Specifically, she said classes can create “circles of support,” which are groups of children who are educated about a student´s condition and able to provide help and support.