A new study finds that children with autism spectrum disorders are bullied far more often than their typically developing peers — nearly five times as often — but parents of autistic kids think the rate is even higher than that.
In the study, about 46% of autistic children in middle and high
school told their parents they were victimized at school within the
previous year, compared with just over 10% of children in the general
population. Calling it a “profound public health problem,” lead author
Paul Sterzing of Washington University in St. Louis told the New York Times that the “rate of bullying and victimization among these adolescents is alarmingly high.”
Many people with autism have trouble recognizing social cues, which
makes them awkward around others. They also often engage in repetitive
behaviors and tend to be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, all of
which makes kids with the disorder ripe targets for bullies who home in on difference and enjoy aggravating their victims. About a third of
autism cases are severely disabling — those affected may suffer from low
IQ and be unable to talk — but most autistic people have average or
high intelligence and many can function well, if their social and
sensory issues are appropriately addressed.