Autistic Children Are Being Driven to Mental Illness by School Bullies; ADVICE OFFERED AS WORRIED PARENTS STRUGGLE TO COPE

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Autistic Children Are Being Driven to Mental Illness by School Bullies; ADVICE OFFERED AS WORRIED PARENTS STRUGGLE TO COPE


Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

CHILDREN with autism are being targeted by bullies in schools, shocking research has discovered.

More than half of parents of autistic children said they had been victimised rising to 87% of families with children with Asperger syndrome or higher-functioning autism.

And a study by the University of Manchester has found children with autism are two to three times more likely to be bullied than other children.

In cases where children with autism have been bullied, two-thirds of parents said their children have developed mental health problems.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru has now published advice for parents of children with autism who are worried about bullying in school. Neil Ingham, of NAS Cymru said: "We are hearing more and more from concerned parents who are unsure how to help their child cope with bullying and how they can approach their child's school.

"Bullying can have a devastating impact on the life of a young person with autism and our research has found that playground bullying can lead to mental health problems and setbacks in a child's education and can potentially damage their outcomes later in life.

"Nearly half of all children with autism have been bullied and, because of the communication difficulties associated with this condition, it can be particularly difficult for a person with autism to adopt the strategies and techniques they need to respond and make sense of their experiences of bullying."

Jonathan Hanna, now 22, who lives in Cardiff, has Asperger syndrome and was bullied while at school.

"Bullying was sadly a part of daily life for me at school," he said.

"The problem was that I didn't know how to respond or what to say when people asked me personal things and my peers fed off that.

"This always caused me severe distress that I rarely felt able to show my tormentors as I wasn't competent at expressing feelings outside the family.

"The consequence of this bullying was that I left school at 14 with no qualifications and being on the cusp of a total mental breakdown. …

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