BALTIMORE, March 26 (UPI) -- Children with autism spectrum disorder are bullied three times more frequently than their siblings who did not have autism, U.S. researchers found.
Dr. Paul Law, director of the Interactive Autism Network Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said the study found 63 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder have been bullied at some point in their lives -- and are sometimes intentionally "triggered" into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by peers.
Nearly 1,200 parents of children with autism spectrum disorder completed the survey. The findings showed children and teens ages 6-15 were especially vulnerable to bullying at every grade level but it appeared the worst bullying occurred between fifth and eighth grades, the study found.
"These survey results showed the urgent need to increase awareness, influence school policies and provide families and children with effective strategies for dealing with bullying," Law said in a statement. "We hope that this research will aid efforts to combat bullying by helping parents, policymakers and educators understand the extent of this problem in the autism community and be prepared to intervene."
Seventy-three percent of the children with autism spectrum disorder reported being teased, picked on or made fun of; 51 percent reported being ignored or left out of things on purpose; 47 percent reported being called bad names; and 30 percent reported being pushed, shoved, hit, slapped or kicked.
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