Published November 2016
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Peer victimization of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are mainstreamed in general education settings plays out in many ways, including verbal and physical abuse, being provoked or ignored, and being excluded from activities.

In this study, those negative experiences were linked to various areas of academic performance.

“The most significant overall finding is that negative peer experiences were consistently associated with a large range of school outcomes, and that in many cases these associations were quite strong,” says study first author Ryan Adams, PhD, of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“In other words,” he adds, “this group is at very high risk for being targeted for negative experiences and these experiences are linked to difficulties that seem to impact all aspects of their lives at school.”

Adams and colleagues surveyed 432 parents of teens with ASD who spent at least half of the school day in a mainstream classroom. Of those parents, 63.5 percent reported their children were provoked, 43.1 percent reported verbal victimization, and 30.6 percent reported their children were ignored.

All three factors were significantly associated with the likelihood that school staff had told parents about academic problems. Adams also surveyed 54 adolescents with ASD, of whom 35 percent reported some form of bullying over the past month.

“Given these poor school outcomes in general, such as academic underperformance, dropping out at high rates, and being fearful for safety, it is extremely motivating to find out what exactly is driving these poor outcomes so that we can build interventions to improve their lives,” Adams says.