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Core deficits characteristic of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as poor conversational ability and deficient social skills, make it hard for them to integrate with their school peers and increase the likelihood that they will be the victims of bullying. Approximately 46% of adolescents with ASD have been bullied, a rate considerably higher than for teens with mental retardation, speech/language impairments, or learning disabilities, reported Paul Sterzing, Ph.D., MSSW, of Washington University and colleagues Monday in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. And the greater the adolescent's social skills, the less likely he or she is to be a bullying victim. The prevalence of bullying victimization among those with ASD is also much higher than the rate for adolescents in general, which is 10.6%. The rates for perpetrating bullying were about the same for those with ASD and "typically developing adolescents" (14.8% and 13%, respectively). Data were derived from parent interviews conducted nationwide.

Citing the public-health implications of their findings, the researchers stressed that schools "need to increase the social integration of adolescents with an ASD into protective peer groups while also enhancing the empathy and social skills of typically developing students toward their peers with ASD and other developmental disabilities."

Read more about autism and ASD in Psychiatric News here and here and in the Textbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders, from American Psychiatric Publishing.