Nearly Half of Teens with Autism Are Victims of Bullying

If your child or loved one has autism, you need to get ready. Social Media has many benefits. The first thing you need to do is educate yourself. I encourage you to start by learning more!

Nearly half of adolescents with autism spectrum disorders are victims of bullying, according to research published online Sept. 3 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

If you have a child who has autism, you need to be concerned.  I work in schools all across North America and kids tell me what it is like in the 21st century social scene.  Kids show me what people write and post on Facebook and Twitter.  Much of this behavior may seem normal if you watch The Housewives of New Jersey, Survivor or Family Guy, but to a teen who wants nothing more than to fit in and be accepted, the things that teens write about each other on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the kinds of things that would spiral any teen into a deep depression.  And for kids who have disorders that do not enable them to properly assess social cues, you would be sick with what you see.  For me, it’s enough to dedicate my life to carrying a message of hope and teaching solutions.

This past month, I presented a program at Stockton College where we had a full house in the lecture hall. During the program we discussed:

·         Cyberbullying
·         Sexting
·         Online dating
·         Legal ramifications of taking videos of others and posting them online
·         How your online persona can affect impressions of you with regards to looking for jobs
·         Negative comments and inappropriate language on line
·         Inappropriate pictures on Facebook

During the program, I asked students if anyone had been cyber bullied in high school and if they would be willing to tell their story. One boy raised his hand.  He told us that he has a mild form of autism and explained how he was relentlessly bullied in the halls and online. The details were heartbreaking. I asked how he dealt with it and he told the room how his mom had to have daily talks with him just to keep his spirits up. 

I have not been able to get this boy out of my head…I think that is why this particular news article caught my eye.  The story talks about the problem, the sickening fact that such a high number of kids with autism are bullied on a regular basis. Then the story attempts to give a solution.

“School-based bullying interventions need to target the core deficits of ASD (conversational ability and social skills) and comorbid conditions (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,)” the authors write. “Future bullying interventions also need to address the higher rates of victimization that occur in general education settings by increasing social integration into protective peer groups and increasing the empathy and social skills of typically developing students toward their peers with an ASD.”

Here is the thing…this solution is totally unrealistic.  As I read the story and the suggestions of how schools could handle this, all I could think was even if you found a school administration that was willing to do this, you would have to get every single teacher in the school to buy into this.  I find teacher morale so low that it is very hard to suggest new ideas and methods of dealing with “behavior” issues, much less new methods of teaching. 

For this proposed solution to be effective the school would have to teach empathy and social skills to the students and this can’t be taught with one assembly.  These skills are developed by repeated lessons, real life situations and practice.  Furthermore, how are schools going to pay to have this training for both teachers and the “peers” as this article suggests? Schools don’t even have the budget to bring in bullying programs to each grade, much less protecting a certain “class” in the school district.

The reality is that there is a major “disconnect” going on here. Who is going to make sure these kids are protected? Doctors diagnose diseases and psychologists and psychiatrists recommend systems to support children with learning disabilities. But unless you train the administration, the teachers, the cafeteria workers, the bus drivers and the students in the school there is no guarantee your child will be safe from harassment, intimidation and bullying.

If your child or loved one has autism, you need to get ready. Social Media has many benefits and can be used in so many positive ways; however, put into the hands of millions of teenagers, who are all trying to make sense of the whole social ladder in middle school and high school, you have a long road ahead of you. 

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself. I encourage you to start by learning more!

(For any reader that would like to attend one of my parent talks, feel free to look at the schedule on our web site for a talk near you.)

Jill Brown


The goal of this blog post is to continue to offer parents and educators the opportunity to understand what goes on in the on-line lives of children in this generation. It allows you to consider alternate viewpoints and reflect upon your own approach to raising your child. By no means are my thoughts and reflections the ONLY way to address these concerns.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Susan Midlarsky November 08, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Not all children are cruel. Bullying is ignorant behavior that often has an identifiable cause. I have been thanked by students who told me that if it were not for my help, they thought they might have become a bully. People grow up ashamed for their actions if not given the proper guidance, and their victims grow up with scars - totally unnecessarily.
GetBlackAndThinkReal November 08, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Bullying and this natural passage builds character and often makes men. Bullying has been with us from the dawn of man. Best of luck trying to alter the make up of human beings. Another example of the ridiculous p.c. fairy tale in which we find ourselves. Get real.
Issy November 08, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Bullying often takes the form of violence and should not be condoned anywhere. Bullying is oppression and we do not tolerate it in open society and we should not in our schools. Bullying does not build character it suppresses free thought and liberty.
joshua tanner November 08, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Religious kids are bullied but nobody is writing weepy articles about them. If a young girl says she wants to stay a virgin kids.media treat her like she has a disorder (asexual they call it).
Lanning Taliaferro (Editor) November 08, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Hi, Josh, if a religious kid in the Hudson Valley is being bullied for his or her beliefs, we would like to write about it. Contact me at lanning.taliaferro@patch.com.
Mike G November 08, 2012 at 12:24 PM
For myself and both my boys it was a window into the real world and a lesson in standing up for oneself. Neither I or my boys tolerated it. We dealt with it and were the better for it. You can wish all you want, the dynamic is part of the school and human experience.
Lola K November 08, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Spruce Bringsteen November 08, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Interesting article and comments. Bullies are usually people hiding some insecurity or fear. They themselves have usually been bulled (most likely at home) and in turn take it out on others. This is a natural human reaction, unfortunately. As W.H. Auden wrote: I and the public know What all schoolchildren learn Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return Both sides of the argument are true. Bullying should not be condoned; it causes serious injury. On the other hand, it's always been here and hard to control. It may build character if you're able to resist, challenge and survive it. But what about the ones who aren't that strong, who can't survive it? Should they perish? "Now -- I don't know this Merle -- I don't know what he does -- I don't know what he lives on. Now why don't you tell him that marriage is out of the question, and you don't want to see him anymore. Now he'll understand, believe me."
Aidan November 08, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Kids are parrots. Parents who fail to teach their children what is and isn't appropriate are mostly at fault for this stuff. STOP looking to the schools to iron out every social issue in the hemisphere. Of course, teachers should monitor their students ... and clip such instances right on the spot. But to expect them to effectively reverse an age-old reality of youth (now replete with technological bells and whistles) is an absurd demand. That is a parental concern first and foremost. "Good" kids don't get swallowed by this sort of stuff ... because they've been brought up with a spine and soul in equal measures. This is the parents' responsibility ... and schools are there to make the environment as safe as possible. Should teachers be vigilant? Of course, the school is their domain. But schools should never become a parental substitute ... whether its bullying, drinking, drugging or sexing. That all belongs to parents. Lay off the schools. You've already handed off too much of your responsibilities. Mother-up. Father-up. And for God's sakes, stop asking these folks to do your job ... they're educators, not social wizards.
Spruce Bringsteen November 08, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Well said. Fredo: "You can't get in to see Mike?" Frankie: "He's got me waiting in the lobby!"
Mike G November 08, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Those who don't survive it and or deal with it, end up sharing positions like the above. "Bullying often takes the form of violence and should not be condoned anywhere. Bullying is oppression and we do not tolerate it in open society and we should not in our schools. Bullying does not build character it suppresses free thought and liberty." Sprinkle a little reality on it... Just for taste.
Leave The Gun Take the Cannolis November 08, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Couldn't agree more with Aidan. Put down the self help books and let your kids get their hands dirty. Life is not antiseptic.
DominatingtheDojo November 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Why don't you change those puzzle pieces on top to: GET and REAL
Spruce Bringsteen November 08, 2012 at 03:02 PM
It's a tough call. Fredo was bullied and turned into a pathetic, emasculated weakling. Hyman Roth was bullied and turned into a stone-cold bad-ass warlord. So it can go either way, really. Excellent Patch name, by the way. "You have to answer for Santino, Carlo". Brutal.
Mother of autistic November 09, 2012 at 05:40 PM
VISIT THE FBI WEBSITE AND LOOK UP THE STATISTICS ON BULLYING AND PSYCHOPATHY! As it turns out serial killers often start out as bullies and have different brains that have undersized areas having to do with empathy and concern for others. Thus, most of the advice on how to deal with bullies hasbeen a waste of time. Psychological counciling and therapy can actually teach a bully how to further exploit the vulnerabilities of not just Autistic, but other people. All bullies should be scored with the HARE psychopathy checklist. If the bully gets a high score, there may be no point in therapy. A psychopath may only respond to a few nights in jail where he or she may realize that there are tougher psychos who can harm the bully. If an adult were to punch a kid, the adult would be arrested and thrown in jail. We should arrest bullies in school and throw them in jail because bullies test the school discipline system and quickly learn that violence will only result in suspension. Thus, they exploit this weakness and continue to hurt others! But, when a bully is arrested by Police, the bully quickly reduces the harm he or she dishes out to others.Many bullies hurt people because they get a sense of excitement from it and the only waythey will stop is if they associate it with going to jail, where they will finally be afraid of recieving the same harm they have dished out.
Mother of autistic November 09, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Don't try to teach empathy to bullies-they are often biologically incapable of learning empathy.
ted stephens November 10, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Anti bullying should now be a course kids take. Yeah I know...
ThisThreadBordersOnTheRidiculous November 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM
It's not about teaching bullies empathy. It's about teaching your children to stand up for themselves and to them. Curious what the content of that anti bullying course would be? This is muchado about nothing.
ThisThreadBordersOnTheRidiculous November 10, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Mother of the Autistic - it seems you've misinterpreted "Best of luck trying to alter the make up of human beings." That is not a suggestion that anyone is going to rewire bullies (whom are not all psychopaths as you suggest). You can't rewire a human dynamic. Put three kids in a sandbox and someone will play the role of bully. This is especially true today, with parents hyper vigilant to anything that resembles conflict. You want to throw kids in jail now? You do realize this is planet earth.
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