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Children with autism are subject to worrying levels of mental health problems and are more likely to be bullied at school. So says a new study out of the University of Manchester, which reveals the extent of the difficulties faced by pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) compared with their peers.

Any type of social situation can be challenging for those on the autistic spectrum, placing them at increased risk of bullying. “Schools are such intensely social environments, compounding the worries of children on the autistic spectrum about how other children see them or how to deal with unstructured social situations”, says the study’s lead author Dr Judith Hebron.

Teachers can find it hard to identify the problems that these children are having in class because they often perform well at school. Many go to great lengths to hide the anxiety they suffer or try to develop strategies to deal with it on their own. “Many children expend huge amounts of energy trying to appear ‘normal’, but this can lead to intolerable stress levels”, says Dr Hebron. Those subject to chronic stress and anxiety as children are more likely to suffer from mental health problems in the future.

The Manchester study echoes the results of a survey by the National Autistic Society (NAS), which found that 63 per cent of children and young people with autism said they have experienced bullying. Social isolation was also identified as a key issue, with 20 per cent of respondents saying they have no friends, while 50 per cent said they would like more friends.

Dr Hebron believes, though, that ongoing work in many mainstream schools shows that there are ways to moderate the anxiety of those with ASD, and that it is possible to teach tolerance of difference to other children.
“We need to see a school system that supports young people with autism both academically and emotionally” says Amanda Batten of the NAS.

The University of Manchester study, co-authored with Professor Neil Humphrey, can be found at:
www.manchester.ac.uk

Comments   

#4 Tharini 2013-11-15 12:27
Julie children with autism have a RIGHT to expect a fase free appropriate school education. Plus home education has TWO major disadvantages. So called normal children won't be taught about kids with disabilities. That is a bad thing. Also children with SLD are better off in schools which are designed for them.
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#3 Harriet Piercy 2013-06-21 18:46
I totally agree with Julie Garrett, I Home Educate our Son and although there are days when things get tough i wouldnt have it any other way. Each day i am learning something new about my son, for us its a journey, school was counterproducti ve, we were misguided and all bullied into trying to mould our son into a "normal" child that would just go along with anything,even if they are completely uncomfortable.O ur choice to withdraw him was the best thing we have done, why should he have to just put up and go along with rules that he had no understanding about. Weve done our research and discovered that our son maybe Autistic, not the schools discovery but ours. So now we are waiting for a formal diagnosis, its been almost a year since the process started, never the less it will change nothing, maybe give others the explanation that they always seek, but for us we know Home schooling is the best and only option for our son to make gentle progress with out the pressure of mainsream.
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#2 Debbie 2013-04-10 16:55
Home education isn't always a simple solution. My ASD son refused to be taught at home. In his view school and home don't cross. We tried the local authority's home tutoring service and it was dismal; my son deteriorated and became more reclusive and depressed. He just wouldn't engage with learning in the home. We found that getting the right school (a spe[censored]t ASD school in our case) has had a much more positive affect on him. His MH difficulties are lessening and he is starting to enjoy school life again. It also enabled me to get a bit of break (we have two autistic children and we don't get respite) and to bring in some much needed income for the family. The point is that home education isn't right for every family or child. Families need choice to do what is right for them. For us, having a school that really understands ASD, is flexible and works cooperatively with families is key.
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#1 Julie Garrett 2013-03-07 18:13
There is a simple solution, take the problem out of the equation. Take school out of the equation, school itself is the cause of most of the problems listed here. How many of the intelligent, well mannered, sociable children turn into mean, bullying, peer controlled scum as soon as they walk through the gates, just because its always been that way?
Well Autistic kids don't have to be the target if they are not there. We Home Educate our Autistic son, what a difference it made. The kid who cowered under the desk at school is now a well mannered sociable young man, able to cope with social situations because he was introduced to them slowly and gently, enabling him to integrate the experiences properly. Instead of the school environment which can be akin to jungle warfare, feeding time at the zoo and rush hour on the Piccadilly line.
If you care for your childs sanity, try Home Education, many thousands do, to the huge benefit of their children.
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