Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bullying and Autism in the Literature

[Time to dust off the old blog here. I'm not sure it will be active once again, but I've disabled comment moderation for now.]

I was searching PubMed for papers on bullying and autism. To my surprise, I found only one entry, Montes & Halterman (2007), a very recent paper. Check out the abstract. I was perplexed when I first read it. Doesn't the language seem to suggest that autistic children are at high risk of being bullies? I had to read it a couple times before I concluded that the authors have to be referring to autistic children being the victims of bullying. That's only because any other interpretation would be absurd (and note that I'm not saying autistic children are incapable of bullying). The "younger age" bit helps. My guess is that the way the abstract is presented has to do with the notion that autistics are bullied because there's something wrong with autistics, not with the bullies.

30 comments:

  1. I think that the authors really meant that autistic children are likely bullies. How else could the phrase "children with autism were more likely to bully in the presence of ADHD/ADD"?
    Please don't stop blogging!

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  2. Any kid is more likely to bully with ADHD/ADD... but that's only because conduct disorder is so common with ADHD/ADD, if it's untreated anyway.

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  3. Joseph:

    Please keep blogging. You've been missed.

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  4. In addition to ADHD/ADD, living in a low-income household and younger age were risk factors for bullying among children with autism. Being female, however, did not decrease the risk of bullying in the autistic subpopulation.

    According to this, the younger autistic kids would bully more. Does that sound right?

    It also sounds like they expected autistic girls to bully less, but they didn't. It makes more sense to me that they were surprised to find that autistic girls were bullied just as much as autistic boys.

    Children with autism had a high prevalence of bullying (44%, 95% confidence interval, 34-55).

    Does that sound right? Almost half of autistic children bully others? It would make more sense if it says that almost half of autistic children are bullied.

    It's not just that the results are counter-intuitive. Why would someone even think of doing a study on this and no studies on bullying of autistic kids?

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  5. I've got a feeling I remember this. I think the premise was that, autistics being heartless (aka, incapable of empathy or lacking theory of mind or whatever), they should be bullies. If it is not the same study, there certainly was one study out this year that has that premise.

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  6. I'd like to see a replication of the study before I can buy it. I wonder if the data source is accurate. Without knowing anything about its details, I guess it's possible that the word "bullying" on someone's records could be ambiguous.

    Another possibility is that autistic kids bully other autistic kids. According to this data, autistics bully just as much as non-autistics, and autistics with ADHD bully a lot more.

    I just find it difficult to imagine an autistic kid and a gang of his autistic friends threatening a weak kid to have him give up his lunch.

    But I guess this could just be another stereotype shattered.

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  7. Well, considering how often autistic children are accused of "attention seeking", "provoking others", etc., it almost doesn't surprise me that someone would think to equate self-defense (and confused expressions of it) with "bullying".

    One thing I remember from elementary school was that there were some kids with an amazing ability to bully "under the radar" without getting in trouble for it. Teachers would see them as the nicest, sweetest, best-behaved kids ever, but they could be plentifully cruel when nobody was looking. Not that autistic bullies can't possibly exist -- bullying is unfortunately a human problem, not a problem that can be deemed the exclusive province of any particular neurology. But still, considering how socially biased things are against autistics, I find the data suspect.

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  8. Define "bullying." One of the kids that had therapy with my son is one of those chunky run-over-everybody kind of kids, very impulsive. He wants a toy, he goes and gets it. I could see where this could very easily be mistaken for bullying, especially with the child's size being an issue. I'd want the behaviors very carefully defined, described, and considered before analyzing such data on such a (weird) hypothesis.

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  9. From the article:

    ...Children with autism who did not have ADHD/ADD were not at greater risk for bullying compared with the general population. ...

    This means that being autistic, in and of itself, does NOT mean you bully people more. It's only if you have ADHD and autism that you bully more. And they never looked at ADHD alone. That's my first complaint about the article.

    My second complaint is that there is no mention in this article of how data was collected. Anecdotally, anyone with an autistic kid will tell you that when their kid gets bullied, it's always the autistic kid that gets blamed for getting into trouble. If they're going on school reports, I'd be highly suspect of this. If they're not actually putting up a video camera and getting experts to identify the bullying behaviors, and then identifying the kids involved (which I'm almost sure that they're not doing) then all sorts of observor/reporter bias come into play.

    Joe

    p.s add me to the list who wants to read your thoughts more.

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  10. This was probably written with Cho of VT in mind and how he bullied his 32 victims. The government might be trying to understand why that happened so they can prevent it from happening again.

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  11. My guess is that the way the abstract is presented has to do with the notion that autistics are bullied because there's something wrong with autistics, not with the bullies.

    If I may, that would be somewhat analogous to saying that violence--rape in particular---occurs against women because they are "asking for it"---not because the rapist has something wrong himself.

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  12. The article is published in the May-June copy of the journal. It has been quite ready for printing, if not already printed, by mid-April when the Virginia Tech massacre occurred.
    Fore Sam, YOU are a bully, regardless of your label.

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  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17354552&ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    Says Asperger's kids need to be protected from bullies.

    Somewhere I read a paper that said some autistic kids can be bullies, but that mostly they are victims of bullying. I think it's obvious that any spectrum kid who bullies does so because he's been bullied and is trying to pass it on to a younger or weaker kid because that's been modeled for him or her.

    One of the better known reseachers (I can't think who it was) said that being bullied was diagnostic of autism, not that it's the only criteria for being dx'd but that it supports a dx of an ASD.

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  14. Maya,
    I get bullied by alleged autistic people all the time. No actual autistic person has the wherewithal to ever bully anyone. This study is absurd.

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  15. One of the better known reseachers (I can't think who it was) said that being bullied was diagnostic of autism

    Going from memory, I think that was Lorna Wing. Not in the literature, but she said it to someone at a conference or something, but I can't recall who it was.

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  16. ForeSkin: "Maya,
    I get bullied by alleged autistic people all the time. No actual autistic person has the wherewithal to ever bully anyone. This study is absurd."

    Maya, you may know this already, but just in case you don't:

    ForeSkin up there has a reputation (justly deserved) for being a seriously hypocritical bully. You may wish to know that - should you disagree with his very errant (to say the least) view of what autism is - he will recommend that you, too, be 'horsewhipped' (as he did with Kathleen Seidel the other year; this is all on record, so he can't really deny it without looking like an imbecile). He will also instigate harrassment activities against you (as he did with someone called Lisa, I believe, the other year also; again, documented activity). In short, as an authority of any description regarding autism, FS/JBJr is not a person to take seriously: he's wilfully clueless, and only in the scene to cause trouble... you see, he is a seriously wussy bully, like all bullies... when he's called on his bullying behaviour, he cries like a baby, and tries to make himself look like a victim.

    He's a turd.

    Last time I watched South Park, I heard a lot of epithets that would describe JBJr to a tee.

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  17. Well as they didn't delineate 'in receipt of bullying behaviors' or 'initiating bullying behaviors' I would discount the report as poorly worded, and have them re-submit the paper after making the proper editorial corrections. But I beleive that sometimes the clinical representation of receiving bullying could be stated just as it is.

    IMO, poorly worded.

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  18. David,
    I'd consider someone a wussy ( not a would I use) who starts something but hides from finishing it, as in answering what Watson had to say to you recently.

    Yes, I stand by statement that Seidel should be horsewhipped. She is not discussing how the Geier's help kids, only trying to knock them for helping kids.

    It was a not I who gave out Lisa Randall's phone number. That man, who happens to be a friend of mine, and I am in complete agreement with him, was kicked off the EOHarm list for that action. Your EOHarm quote miners can look it up for you.

    It's just slightly absurd for you to call me clueless when my son is progressing very nicely due to my superior knowledge of autism. I understaood the simple facts about mercury and chelation that you just can't digest and my son is getting better. If your daughter is still on the spectrum, it's your ignorance that's keeping her there.

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  19. "I'd consider someone a wussy ( not a would I use) who starts something but hides from finishing it, as in answering what Watson had to say to you recently."

    What did Watson have to say to me? I have much more on my mind these days that looking at your shitty little corner of the internet.

    "Yes, I stand by statement that Seidel should be horsewhipped."

    Then you're an arsegole. Period.

    "She is not discussing how the Geier's help kids, only trying to knock them for helping kids."

    You obviously haven't actually read anything she's written then, have you? If you have, you have failed entirely to understand it. But then... the way you display your intellectual powers, that's maybe to be expected.

    "It was a not I who gave out Lisa Randall's phone number."

    You defended him though.

    "That man, who happens to be a friend of mine, and I am in complete agreement with him, was kicked off the EOHarm list for that action. Your EOHarm quote miners can look it up for you."

    Okay. I'll wait for that to turn up before holding to any judgement on that issue.

    "It's just slightly absurd for you to call me clueless when my son is progressing very nicely due to my superior knowledge of autism."

    Superior knowledge my arse!



    "I understaood the simple facts about mercury and chelation that you just can't digest and my son is getting better."

    No you didn't. You were given a chance to demonstrate that understanding. You rejected it. Why? Because you knew damn well that any 'study' you might be able to do wouldn't withstand a rigorous test of validity.

    "If your daughter is still on the spectrum, it's your ignorance that's keeping her there."

    Don't be infantile. You're losing, man.

    I'd laugh at you if I didn't pity you so fucking much.

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  20. David,
    Some cop outs and name calling but I can't expect much from a guy who took over 40 years to get through school.
    Anyone who knows the truth about Mark Geier has no trouble reaading between the lines when your wicked witch decides to attack him.
    I'd like to hear more about that nurse who abused you.

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  21. "Some cop outs and name calling but I can't expect much from a guy who took over 40 years to get through school."

    Simplistic thoughts going roound a simple mind. You've been a major cop-out/name-calling merchant ever since I had the misfortune to encounter you. As for taking 40+ years to get through school... not everybody can afford to go full time, imbecile. Though that would have been an obvious thing for many people to pick up on, you somehow failed to get that. That's what I'd expect from someone who can't figure out that Andy Cutler's been making a pillock out of him for years.

    "Anyone who knows the truth about Mark Geier has no trouble reaading between the lines when your wicked witch decides to attack him."

    His claims have no merit. They are formed form quick looks at abstracts without even trying to read the paper behind the abstract. You can't handle being wrong: it's as simple as that.

    "I'd like to hear more about that nurse who abused you."

    Bet you would. She's a lot like you.

    Actually... as far as I know, she's still employed... you have a job, John? You working?

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  22. Dave,
    I worked full time and went to school full time at the same time. If you weren't so lazy, you could've done the same thing.

    Geier's treatment of autistic children is helping them get better. That's not a claim, it's a fact. All your witch does is try to assassinate their character while conveniently leaving out the fact that they are helping children who she'd rather see suffer.

    I work when I feel like it, Dave.
    I see you're still afraid of Watson.

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  23. "I worked full time and went to school full time at the same time."

    You're either superhuman or you're lying your arse off. I know which I'm betting on.

    "If you weren't so lazy, you could've done the same thing."

    Lazy? You mean, like you are now???

    "Geier's treatment of autistic children is helping them get better. That's not a claim, it's a fact."

    Bollocks, and you know it.

    "All your witch does is try to assassinate their character while conveniently leaving out the fact that they are helping children who she'd rather see suffer."

    She understands it far better than you ever will. But that's okay, John... we know you have to be humoured.

    "I work when I feel like it, Dave.

    Not very often then. So you don't have a job then?

    "I see you're still afraid of Watson."

    Who the hell is Watson to me? Why should I answer anyone who I don't bloody want to?

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  24. John typically being John, this all comes round to him again.

    John... I can't be arsed to answer your every little infantile poke at me. You're stupid and ignorant and want to drag everybody else down to your level, since you can't get yourself together enough to reach up to theirs.

    Shaln't be responding to anything else.

    Waste of my time, and Joseph's blog.

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  25. Dave,
    Your witch understands that it is in the best interests of the drug companies to knock the Geiers any way she can. Fortunately, intelligent people see right through her pile of crap.
    Full time school and work was not easy Dave. Neither was learning how to break par, or get through Officer's Training School, or learn how to cure autism, or find 90 to 1 shots at the race track.
    People who don't suffer from mercury induced diminished capacity like you supposedly do have the wherewithal to accomplish things that you'll never be able to.
    Watson is someone who has done research on you and found evidence that you may be a complete fraud. I don't wonder why you hide from answering it.

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  26. When a normal kid bullies, they're "just being kids" or at the worst (in most cases) gets just a slap on the wrist (though only figuratively, as physically slapping the wrist of a boy who jumps on a girl's back and tries to strangle her would be much too harsh - no, let's make him sit at the fence during recess for five days - even though I had laryngitis from this for two weeks time). But when the weird autistic kid pushes back someone who's been following her and threatening and insulting her, then no, she's being aggressive and acting out.

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  27. Regarding whether the autI am an adult diagnosed with Aspergers' syndrome. In hindsight, I suppose when I was in k-12 school I would have qualified as a "bully". Specifically, I would sometimes yell at, threaten or physically strike at another student without being "bullied" first. When I did this, it was always because I was being stressed by what a person was doing (especially making repetitive tapping noises). I am sure that there were active bullies who made these noises intentionally, but I am equally sure that I often mistook unintentional sounds for such bullying and overreacted accordingly. The key issue is motive: For a typical bully, inflicting harm and/or controlling others is the primary motive, pursued as an end in itself. But what I did was always about controlling my environment. I also have to say that, based on my experiences, public schools (even many or most special ed classrooms) are not an environment where autistic kids can be expected to function consistently, let alone learn.

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  28. There are some gregat podcasts on autism and bullying at www.mic.mypodcast.com. They are free and are issued by Midnight In Chicago. The one your ought to look at is entitled..."Autism and Bullying."

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  29. My son is 10 has ASD, ADHD, Dyspraxia and enuresis, he lies like a trooper and having recently made a friend they now enjoy dinner times teasing the 6 year old boys, daring them to swear at teachers, tripping them over, hitting them with toys and generally being a little monster. I think autistic children are quite capable of bullying and due to their other needs probably get away with it more too.

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