Why Pick On Children With Autism?

Social isolation and bullying happens more to children with ASD says new research

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Because of problems with social interaction shared by most children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), they tend to lead more solitary lives and report higher instances of being the targets of bullies.

While peer friendships are important to healthy child development, children with ASD may not be getting the benefits. 

New research urges for new strategies to be created that help build stronger social interaction skills. 

Through improved skills it is more likely that children with ASD can enjoy the important benefits of social relationships.

"Report all bullying to teachers or authorities."

In a recent report authored by Emma Crowley of City & Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust (London) and lead scientist Tony Charman, PhD of the Institute of Education (London), children with ASD were found to be lacking in important peer relationships.

A study that looked at 100 children (ages 10-12) with ASD found higher reporting of bullying and social isolation.  This study interviewed not only the children but parents and teachers as well.

The research suggests there are two main reasons the children are not making strong, meaningful peer relationships.  The most important reason being: the children have a difficult time with basic social skills and this prevents them from understanding how a friendship should work. 

The second reason involves the victimization of children with an ASD because of their apparent behavior differences.  Bullies are targeting children with ASD even more than they are targeting children with other special education needs (SEN) children.

It has been suggested that putting children with ASD into mainstream school settings could help bridge the gap between them and their peers.  However, this research has determined that mainstream settings may actually increase the likelihood of loneliness and bullying.  It suggests that special or dedicated schools with less social pressure may be of more assistance to those with ASD. 

According to Dr. Tony Charman, “This would need following up in a dedicated study but it does remind us that issues around educational placement might be as much about a social fit as learning environments”.

This research report was published online, ahead of print, in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, July-September 2012.  No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 23, 2012
Last Updated:
April 25, 2012