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Calls to Action

IAN’s Bullying Survey: Addressing a Troublesome Issue

By Connie Anderson, Ph.D. Community Scientific Liaison, IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute

The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) has launched a national online survey on bullying and children with ASD to begin to address this troublesome issue in the lives of children on the autism spectrum.
As Community Scientific Liaison for this national online autism research project, I hear from families all the time, and bullying is one concern they raise often. Just to make it through a school day, they tell me, a child on the spectrum may have to contend with sensory issues, social challenges, and attention problems. Add bullying into the mix and what was challenging can quickly become impossible, leading to a sense of isolation and failure. I hear of children tormented at lunch or on the playground, when a personal assistant (if any) may be taking a break. I hear of children who are provoked into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by other children who know how to push their buttons, maybe by attacking a cherished interest. (“Pokemon is stupid.”) I hear about cases where children with meltdowns are accused of being bullies, and may suffer consequences like suspension from school as a result.
I’m also the mother of a teenager with Asperger’s, who has had his sweatpants pulled down around his knees in Tech Ed class, and been tormented at lunch until he wants to hide in the Special Ed Resource room rather than go to the cafeteria. I’m the friend of a mom who decided to home school her daughter with ASD after constant bullying made school a place so wrought with anxiety she could no longer function there.
These stories are all too common. Anecdotes from adults with ASD, children with ASD, and their families indicate that individuals on the spectrum may be especially vulnerable to bullying, and a few small studies have provided some evidence of this. Now, the online Bullying and School Experiences of Children with ASD Survey will collect more in-depth information on a variety of bullying situations from a large number of families to explore the extent of these problems in the lives of children with ASD.
I hope you’ll spread the word about the survey to all who may be interested.
Learn more about the Bullying Survey.
Read an article about bullying and children with ASD.