A study from the University of California – Berkeley School of Social Welfare shows that kids with autism spectrum disorders are four times more vulnerable to bullying than normally developing children in the same age range.
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine involved as sample 900 children whose ages ranged from 13 to 16. The researchers found that 46 percent of the kids falling under the autism spectrum in the sample were bullied, while only 10.6 percent of the kids without autism were subjected to the same treatment. The data also indicates that bullying is worst for autistic kids who went to general education classrooms.
The recent findings confirms an earlier study from the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Interactive Autism Network that shows 63 percent of kids with autism were victimized by bullies at some point in varying degrees. These studies, in turn, validate what have been known by parent for sometime: that kids falling under the autism spectrum are specially vulnerable to taunting, harassment and rejection from their peers.
Dealing with kids struggling with language and social interactions is quite difficult even for families and loved ones. Connecting with others is a formidable task for autistic kids who may not well understand social cues. These make them easy targets for bullies who want to show off or exert control over their peers.
UC-Berkeley assistant professor Paul Sterzing, one of the study authors, agrees that social interaction difficulties make these children on the spectrum particularly vulnerable to bullying. “With any kid, if there are things that set them apart, those will increase the likelihood of them being targeted for bullying,” Sterzing explained. He further recommended that there has to be a system of support available for spectrum kids placed in inclusion classrooms to combat bullying. This is in addition to teaching social skills to kids with autism while normal kids are taught empathy and acceptance.