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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

The Prevalence and Perception of Bullying Among Adolecents with ASD

Kids Sitting and Talking

Bullying among adolescents in general is a huge issue in schools around the country and around the world. Bullying is a type of aggressive behavior characterized by a person (the bully) abusing their power and repeatedly exposing the victim to negative actions in the form of physical, verbal or relational abuse. A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2009 by Eeske van Roekel, Ron H.J. Scholte, and Robert Didden investigated the prevalence and perception of bullying among adolescents with ASD in a special education school. They found that the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization was high in adolescents with ASD.

It is interesting, but maybe not overly surprising, to note that the teachers rated levels of bullying higher than the adolescents themselves. This difference may be due to the teachers having a outsider’s view of the student’s behavior and being able to see more bullying behavior or may have something to do with the actual perception of behavior by the adolescents (i.e. they may not always perceive a behavior as bullying).

They found that higher ratings of victimization for individuals was correlated with misinterpretation of non-bullying situations as bullying. This might occur because the perceptions of people who are constantly victimized tend to become distorted and biased. They also found that higher ratings of bullying behavior for individuals was correlated with misinterpreting bullying situations as non-bullying. This could be explained by related findings showing that individuals who have difficulty processing social information are more likely to engage in bullying behavior.

These finding may have significant implications for interventions because while most anti-bullying curricula focus on behavior modification and teacher training, there might be a need for more instruction around improving adolescent’s ability to understand theory of mind related to bullying and victimization. To fluently navigate social situations individuals need to have social insight such as understanding and attributing mental states to themselves and others (i.e. beliefs, desires, intentions, perceptions, imagination and emotions). More difficulty with these theory of mind skills is correlated to higher rates of bullying behavior.
Link to full text JADD article

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