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Autistic Children Suffer Bullying

Update Date: Jan 13, 2013 05:00 AM EST

A new research suggests that about 70 percent of children with autism suffer emotional trauma as a result of bullying.

Another revelation of the study is that many autistic children are scared for their safety at school, and that those with autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression are at the highest risk of being bullied.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders, which range from mild asperger syndrome to severe mental retardation and social disability in childhood autism, are diagnosed in about one in 88 children in the U.S.

Autism is a complex disability that hinders social interaction and communication skills. Autistic people are also marked by obsessive and repetitive behaviors.

For the current study, researchers surveyed the parents of more than 1,200 autistic children and found that 38 percent of the children suffered bullying once a month, while 28 percent were frequently bullied.

Also, according to the report, because of bullying, the children suffered emotional trauma (69 percent) and physical injuries (8 percent) as the immediate consequences. About 14 percent children who suffered bullying said they were worried about their safety.

The study revealed that 18 percent of children fought back when bullied, 40 percent had an emotional outburst leading to disciplinary action at school, 9 percent bullied other children, and 5 percent frequently bullied others.

The report says that autistic children who have a conduct disorder or an oppositional defiant disorder are more likely to be bullies, while those who also had ADHD, conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder are most likely to be victims. This suggests that while they are victims of bullying, they also bully others.

"Our results provide insights that will help teachers and school staff identify children with autism who may be at the greatest risk for bullying involvement, either as victims or perpetrators," senior study author Dr. Paul Law, director of the Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, said in an institute news release.

"Outside of school, parents should be encouraged to talk to their child about bullying, particularly if they are concerned their child may be a victim," Law said. "Parents should also set up appointments to talk to the staff or teachers at their child's school to learn more about how they can work to prevent bullying and help children involved in bullying cope with the consequences."

The study was published Jan. 10 in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 

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