Understanding, experiences, and reactions to bullying experiences in boys with an autism spectrum disorder

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Journal Article

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Bitsika, V., & Sharply, C.F. (2014). Understanding, experiences, and reactions to bullying experiences in boys with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 26(6), 747-761.

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Copyright © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

2014 HERDC submission




Most previous studies of bullying in young people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have relied on data from adults’ rather than the person with an ASD themselves, thus limiting our understanding of the bullying experience from the child’s perspective. To investigate this issue, 48 high-functioning boys with an ASD, and their mothers, completed an online questionnaire about various aspects of bullying. There were some minor discrepancies between mothers’ and their sons’ reported frequency of bullying. Boys demonstrated an understanding of the behaviour that constitutes bullying that was consistent with the wider literature, enhancing the validity of their responses about their experiences. Sources of bullying included friends, and bullying mostly occurred in the playground. These boys had ineffective coping strategies for bullying, and many reported significant physical and emotional negative reactions. Many boys found that telling adults made their bullying experiences worse, and most kept their bullying experiences to themselves until they reached home, then adopting a range of negative (tantrums) and positive (staying alone to calm down) behaviours. Unfortunately, over half of these boys sought to absent themselves from school as their preferred method for coping with their bullying experiences. These findings have major implications for interventions within schools to reduce bullying and to provide access to learning and social activities.

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This document has been peer reviewed.