Children with an autism spectrum disorder are at greater risk for suicide than children without autism, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
Bullying and teasing exacerbates the situation. Often it ends fatally.
63% of autistic children are bullied.
Researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University conducted a survey of 1,200 children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and found 63 percent of the kids had been bullied.
The researchers also found these children were three times more likely to be bullied than their siblings who do not have autism. The frequency of suicidal ideation in children with autism was twice as common in males.
The researchers also looked at the psychological and behavioral problems of these children and found that depression and behavior problems were highly associated with suicide attempts, as were children who were teased or bullied. That’s a lethal combination.
While any child who is bullied can experience significant emotional distress, children with autism may experience "meltdowns" or aggressive outbursts when upset and some of these children are being intentionally triggered into such episodes by bullies.
What explains such high rates of bullying among the autism community?
Children with autism who attended public schools were 50 percent more likely to be bullied than those in private schools or special education settings.
That suggests that children with Asperger's may be more prone to bullying because they're often placed in mainstream classrooms in regular schools. Certain behavioral traits including clumsiness, rigid rule-keeping, talking obsessively, frequent meltdowns and inflexibility may make children with an autism spectrum disorder more prone to bullying.
Also trying to make friends may backfire. Of children with autism who want to interact with others but have a hard time making friends, 57 percent are bullied, compared to only 25 percent of children who prefer to play alone.
Most problems have to do with ineffective anti-bullying policies in schools.
The statistics also reveal that the assimilation of teens with ASDs into general education classes is not a solution to the bullying problem; in fact, it may exacerbate it.
More than 70% of students taking classes in general education were found to be victims of bullying. There is an urgent need to increase awareness, influence school polices, and provide families with effective strategies for dealing with bullying. The time is now.
When bullying ends in suicide.
All bullying is troubling -- no matter where, when or to whom it occurs, especially when the end result is suicide. When you combine 63% of all autistic children being bullied with a 28% higher risk of suicide, the threat is imminent.
Experiencing bullying in the form of teasing, taunts, ostracism or other forms of meanness may make a child who was already struggling to cope become completely unable to function. And when a child or teen with autism is unable to function, the result can be fatal.
One teen who couldn’t function.
William Maxwell Webb will never see his 17th birthday. Maxwell was a sensitive, caring young man who was much loved by his family and in the community.
One family friend shared: "I remember when Maxwell was giving away kittens. He posted a pic of each kitten with a description of their personalities & habits. He was a very thoughtful young man."
Maxwell came into this world on May 9, 1997, in Independence, KS and left on September 30, 2013.
On the surface, Maxwell had everything to live for. He was exceptional in so many ways. At 16 he was already attending community college, majoring in chemical science. He owned his own seed company and won numerous botanical awards. Maxwell was on every honor roll and had a passion for astronomy, science & technology. He even helped out around the family funeral home. Everyone could see the extraordinary young man that he had become.
A problem that ended with a fatal solution.
There was one problem; a pervasive problem that had been reported to the school board numerous times and had fallen on deaf ears.
Maxwell had been bullied, repeatedly. And, Maxwell had autism.
Even though Maxwell was an advocate for autistic youth, when he was bullied, it became painful and dark. A darkness that Maxwell internalized.
We’ll never know what triggered Maxwell to make that fatal decision, but today we honor his memory and all the good he did as an advocate for those with autism.
We have an angel in heaven now, whose name we already know. William Maxwell Webb
If you would like to help the Webb family continue Maxwell’s autism advocacy, or read his life story, click here.
Source: Nancy Burban