International Meeting for Autism Research: Bullying in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bullying in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 21, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
11:00 AM
K. P. Nowell , Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
C. M. Brewton , Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
M. W. Lasala , Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
S. U. Peters , Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
R. P. Goin-Kochel , Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Background: A defining characteristic of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a qualitative impairment in social interaction, which is manifested to varying degrees across the spectrum. However, in all cases, the impairment results in these children having difficulties accurately perceiving their social world (e.g., tone of voice, facial expressions), thus placing them at risk for bullying. Much attention has been given to bullying in schools, but minimal research has been completed specifically investigating the prevalence of bullying in children with ASD. Also, there are conflicting findings within the research literature in terms of how educational placement correlates with incidents of bullying. Some literature suggests that placement in special education classes increases a child’s risk of being bullied (Card & Hodges, 2008), while other research suggests that being included with typically developing peers may result in increased victimization (Sigman and Ruskin, 1999).

Objectives: To quantify incidents of bullying within a sample of children with ASD; qualitatively explore children’s perceptions of being teased/bullied; and investigate correlations between level of overall functioning, clinical severity, frequency of peer victimization, and classroom setting.

Methods: Data were ascertained from Baylor College of Medicine’s local Simon’s Simplex Collection (SSC) sample (N=43). Inclusion criteria were that children were between the ages of 6 and 18 years and had been administered a module 3 of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Children were diagnosed with autism (73%), or ASD (i.e. Asperger’s Disorder and PDD-NOS) (27%). Data of interest included specific items from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and Teacher Rating Form (TRF). Level of functioning was examined using cognitive evaluation (e.g., The Differential Ability Scales - Second Edition (DAS-II)) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS). Information regarding educational placement was gathered from the ADI-R and a treatment history form. Qualitative data regarding probands’ experiences were collected via Module 3 of the ADOS (e.g., from the question “Have you ever been teased or bullied”).

Results: Preliminary analysis revealed that 74% of parents reported that their child was sometimes or frequently teased or bullied, while 52% of teachers endorsed the corresponding item. Qualitative data from the Module 3 of the ADOS indicated that 66% of probands denied being teased or bullied, 22% provided an inaccurate description of being bullied, and 12% provided an accurate description of being bullied. Logistic regression analysis will be used to determine whether clinical severity (as measured with ADOS), level of social skills (as assessed by the VABS), and/or level of cognitive functioning predicts parental reports of bullying. The chi-square test of homogeneity will be used to determine whether educational placement is associated with endorsement of CBCL/TRF items. 

Conclusions: Results indicate a discrepancy between parent and child reports of bullying incidents. Next-step analyses will reveal more about factors potentially related to (a) parental espousal of their children being bullied and (b) both children’s denial and admission of being bullied.

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