Project Area: Researching bullying of pupils with Asperger syndrome in UK secondary schools
Lead Researcher: : Dr. Paul Naylor
Institution: University of Sheffield
Description: This project was designed to establish the amount and form of bullying of pupils with Asperger syndrome in UK secondary schools
The research showed that a significant proportion of children with autism were bullied and were bullied more often than other children. The research also highlighted important behaviour patterns which might be linked to bullying and social isolation. The pupils with autism also reported having far few fewer friends and were less physically active, potentially leading to long term mental and physical health problems
Impact: This project provided important information about the amount and form of bullying of pupils with Asperger syndrome in secondary schools. This should help schools identify the circumstances around bullying of students with Asperger syndrome and a context for prevention and intervention.
Additional Information: The report has now been published as
Wainscot, J. et al. (2008). Relationship with peers and the use of the school environment of mainstream secondary school pupils with Asperger syndrome (high-functioning autism): A case-control study. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 8(1), pp. 25-38.
Research Autism is the only charity in the UK to fund and promote research into interventional treatments and therapies that enhance the quality of life of those on the autistic spectrum and their families. Identifying risk factors for bullying is considered an important focus of research for Research Autism because bullying is a common experience for many people with autism. Prior to this study, it was estimated that at least 40% of children on the autistic spectrum experience bullying during their school years, results from this study show that bullying could be far more common for people with AS/HFA.
The research project was led by Dr Paul Naylor and Professor Digby Tantam both of the School of Health & Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. Between April 2006 and November 2007, the research team interviewed 57 children in the Sheffield area - 30 of whom have been diagnosed with AS/HFA. The research showed that 90% of the 30 children with AS/HFA reported being bullied, compared to 56% of other pupils and 87% of children with AS/HFA reported that they were bullied at least once a week, compared to 56% of other pupils. The research also highlighted important behaviour patterns which might be linked to bullying and social isolation, such as the pupils with AS/HFA engaged in fewer social interactions during the school day - inside and outside of lessons - and often spent break and lunch times inside the school in quieter spaces supervised by adults. The pupils with AS/HFA also reported having far few fewer friends and were less physically active.
Upon completion of this study, the research team concluded that social isolation and bullying may be higher amongst pupils with AS/HFA for a variety of reasons, including possessing poor communication skills and being less physically active due to poor motor coordination skills. Ultimately, the research team felt that more research is needed to examine the risk factors for bullying by peers that pupils with AS/HFA face compared to other pupils and how best to intervene to prevent bullying.
As a result of the first stage of this research into bullying amongst young people with AS/HFA, Research Autism hopes that researchers move closer to understanding the key risk factors for this group of people and that the appropriate steps are taken to prevent bullying being such a common experience for those on the autistic spectrum.