This research completely contradicts what was previously thought, that older Autistic children are more accepted by their peers, as they develop empathy, sympathy and a more adult outlook on life and individualism.
A survey of 722 teachers and 119 parents by Dr. Judith Hebron and Professor Neil Humphrey, suggested that Autistic children were more likely to be bullied in mainstream schools, where class sizes are considerably higher than in special schools. Poor behaviour and public transport to and from school were also thought to be a contributory factor.
Dr Hebron said:
“Children with autism are easy targets because their behaviour may be regarded as odd or different, and our research tells us this is likely to result in bullying, teasing and provocation.
“When children become adolescents social groups become more important than they are for little children. As these groups become more complex, children with autism will struggle with social interaction, they find it more difficult.
“Contrary to what people may think, many children on the autistic spectrum – with support from their school and parents –wish to and are able to make friends, so our findings on the importance of social networks are potentially important.”
Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said:
“This important piece of research highlights how people with autism experience bullying throughout their lives, not just in the playground, but in the workplace and even in the street.
“Better understanding of the condition and support for people with autism who can and do want to form friendships will go a long way towards ending the social isolation that many feel.”