In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas Children’s Hospital surveyed/questioned parents and teachers of children with autism (as well as the children themselves) about bullying. For the survey, children on the spectrum, ages 6 to 18, were selected, along with their parents and teachers.
Results of the study showed some interesting patterns in the responses that are important for parents/teachers to be aware of. Parents and teachers were in agreement about how many “typically developing” siblings of children with autism were teased (about 7%), but disagreed about the prevalence of bullying of children on the spectrum.
Parents reported that approximately 63% of children with autism were teased, while teachers reported approximately 40%. The researchers suggested that teachers may under-report instances of bullying. It is also possible that parents may over-report bullying, but this study did not allow researchers to make determinations about this one way or the other. If teachers under-report bullying, it does not mean that teachers don’t care or are ignoring bullying. The researchers suggest that teachers may not be in a position to observe all episodes of bullying. Teachers may also rely on students to report bullying to teachers, which may pose unique challenges for children with autism.
Results of this study indicated that children with autism reported bullying less often than their parents and teachers did. This suggests that children with autism may be under-reporting bullying to their teachers and parents. Possible reasons for this are related to social skill challenges. Children with autism may not be able to tell the differences in bullying behaviors and non-bullying behaviors. They may not really understand what “bullying” means or looks like. They may also lack the social-communication skills to describe episodes of bullying in a detailed and accurate way.
I think this shows the importance of both teachers and parents keeping an eye out for bullying of students with autism. Parents can communicate to the teacher any concerns they have about bullying, so that the teachers knows and can be an active partner with parents to support the child. Children with autism can also be directly taught about what bullying is, what behaviors constitute bullying, and so on. The following resources may help:
- Bullying Info for Parents: http://www.autismsafety.org/bullying.php
- Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit: http://specialneeds.thebullyproject.com/toolkit
- Children Describe What a Bully Is (good for teaching what bullying is): http://www.tooter4kids.com/what_is_a_bully.htm
- Presentation on Autism and Bullying (Includes a Social Story to explain bullying to a child with autism): http://www.leics.gov.uk/autism_strategies_bullying.pdf
- Video Social Story - How To Deal With The Bullies: http://www.aspergerssocialstories.com/2011/03/how-to-deal-with-bullies-help-for.html
- Bullying and Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Health Needs Tip Sheet: http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/special-needs/index.html
To read the study’s other findings (including autism characteristics associated with higher reports of bullying), please read the full article:
A Multi-Rater Study on Being Teased Among Children/Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Their Typically Developing Siblings: Associations With ASD Symptoms
Kerri P. Nowell
Christie M. Brewton
Robin P. Goin-Kochel
Journal Publication Information:
Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities
December 2014, Volume 29, No. 4, Pages 195-205
Link to article information: http://foa.sagepub.com/content/29/4/195.abstract?rss=1
The suggestions made based on the article (paragraph 6) are from Positively Autism and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the authors or publishers of this study.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only. None of the information presented here is intended to be used without consulting appropriate professionals, such as a medical doctor, LPC, or BCBA. If your child or student is being bullied, please work with appropriate professionals at your school to resolve the issue. If you are concerned that your child is experiencing anxiety, depression, or other negative thoughts due to bullying or any other reason, please contact appropriate professionals.