New Data Show Children with Autism Bullied Three Times More Frequently Than Their Unaffected Siblings

Article excerpt

In late March, the Interactive Autism Network (IAN), www.ianproject.org, a project of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, reported preliminary results of the first national survey to examine the impact of bullying on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The results show that 63 percent of children with ASD have been bullied at some point in their lives. These children, who are sometimes intentionally "triggered" into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by peers, are bullied three times more frequently than their siblings who do not have ASD.

"These survey results show the urgent need to increase awareness, influence school policies and provide families and children with effective strategies for dealing with bullying," said Dr. Paul Law, director of the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Nearly 1,200 parents of children with ASD completed the survey. Findings show that these children (ages 6 to 15 years) are especially vulnerable to bullying, and point to a number of risk factors.

Where and When Bullying Occurs:

* While bullying occurred at every grade level, between 5th and 8th grades appeared to be the worst, with 42 to 49 percent of children with ASD in those grades currently bullied.

* Children with ASD attending regular public schools are bullied at a rate of nearly 50 percent more than children in private school or special education settings.

* Types of bullying most often reported include being teased, picked on or made fun of (73 percent); being ignored or left out of things on purpose (51 percent); being called bad names (47 percent); and being pushed, shoved, hit, slapped or kicked (nearly 30 percent).

Potential Risk Factors:

While parents reported that 39 percent of children with ASD were bullied in the month prior to the survey, only 12 percent of their typically developing siblings, ages 6 to 15, were bullied in the same timeframe, indicating children with ASD are bullied at a rate more than three times higher than their unaffected siblings.

Across ASD diagnoses, 61 percent of children with Asperger's syndrome experienced bullying, a rate nearly double that of children with other diagnoses on the autism spectrum. …