While one in 10 adolescents in the general population are victimized, almost half of children with autism face the same problems, a rate that is noticeably higher.
“I would call it a profound public health problem,” said Paul R. Sterzing, lead author of the new study and an assistant professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, to The New York Times. “The rate of bullying and victimization among these adolescents is alarmingly high.”
Sterzing, formerly affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis, and his colleagues studied a 2001 survey of 920 parents of middle school and high school students with autism disorders. The report says adolescents on the autism spectrum may be particularly vulnerable to bullying because of problems related to their condition, such as intellectual or speech impairments.
Certain factors, such as communication problems, fewer friendships, and lower income, were correlated to bullying victims. Patients with an autism disorder and attention-deficiency/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were significantly more likely to be victimized than those without ADHD; these children with ADHD were also more likely to be bullies themselves.
Those with autism disorders who were in regular classes also faced increased bullying, leading the study authors to recommend school-based interventions and creating more accepting classrooms as potential solutions.
“Inclusive classrooms need to increase the social integration of adolescents with an [autism spectrum disorder] into protective peer groups while also enhancing the empathy and social skills of typically developing students toward their peers with an ASD and other developmental disabilities,” the authors wrote in a press release.
What do you think can be done to improve adolescent bullying? Let us know in the comments.