A new study conducted by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, has shown that autistic children are less approachable and deemed to be less trustworthy than their peers of a similar age group.
The study, published in the Journal of Autism and developmental disorders suggests that typical children are also less friendly towards children with autism. Children formed negative associations with autistic children within 30 seconds of knowing them.
Psychologist and head researcher Dr Stephen Stagg investigated reactions of a number of children after watching a 30 second silent video. The videos of 11 year old children were mixed by the researchers containing the same number of autistic children with other children of a similar age.
Children were then asked to rate the video they had just watched in terms of who they most wanted to be their friends and who they thought they could trust.
The children with autism rated lower on both counts than their peers.
Dr Stagg said:
“Children with autism spend many years learning about facial expressivity, but our research shows that by the age of 11 their slower development in this area is already marking them out amongst their typically developing peers.
“Children with autism have a difficult time at school, and research published by The National Autistic Society showed that 40 per cent of children with autism reported being bullied.
“According to the Department for Education, 71 per cent of children with an autism diagnosis are currently educated in mainstream schools.
“It is therefore important that schools work with typically developing children to educate them about autism, in order to break through the negative impressions that can be formed through a moment’s contact.”