Autism Spectrum Disorders and Bullying

The End of Bullying

A co-worker and I were working on a presentation for this past Tuesday entitled, “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Prevention and Intervention of Bullying.”  We have presented this session several times previous.  I am always saddened and taken back by the bullying statistics concerning our students on the spectrum.  Considering this is Autism Awareness month and this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, I decided to share some statistics as well as a personal story with you in today’s blog.

The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University interviewed 1,200 parents who had a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a research study in 2012.  Their findings revealed that 63 % of the children had been bullied.  You can read about their findings here.  Teachers need a better understanding of bullying as well as a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders and what make them the prime targets for the bullies.

According to the research study, the characteristics that are associated with the likelyhood of a child on the spectrum being bullied are:

•Clumsiness

•Poor hygiene

•Rigid rule keeping (enforcing adults’ rules when other children would not)

•Continuing to talk about a favorite topic even when others are bored or annoyed

•Frequent meltdowns

•Inflexibility or rigidity

One of the saddest statistics to be found in the study is that the group that was bullied the most were those with ASD who wanted to interact with their peers, but who had difficulty making friends. 57% of these students were bullied where as only 25% of students with ASD who prefered isolated play were bullied. The study notes one “bright spot.”  Students who were successful at learning to make friends were bullied at a lower rate of 34%.

While these statistics are certainly depressing to see, I came across a program that certainly has the potential to reverse this trend.  It is called “Peer Advocacy” from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.   On their site, educator’s can download a 32 page Peer Advocacy Guide PDF document that will explain how to set a peer advocacy program in their respective schools, as well as the results of the pilot program. (Be sure to watch the video on “Peer Advocacy.”)  You can find out more about here.

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