ScHARR research on bullying of children with autism in secondary schools

As reported in the "Society" section of the Guardian, 16th April 2008, a team of researchers from ScHARR, led by Dr Paul Naylor, has undertaken an investigation of social interaction and bullying among school children with autism spectrum disorders during 2006 and 2007. Other members of the team were Jennifer Wainscot, Dr. Paul Sutcliffe, Prof. Digby Tantam, Jenna Williams, and 29 second year medical students.

The study set out to identify whether mainstream secondary school pupils with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism (AS/HFA) are bullied more or less than other pupils and, if so, in what ways. The study involved 30 pupils with AS/HFA aged 11-18 years from schools around the UK.

Key findings

By comparison with other pupils, those with AS/HFA

  • Engaged in fewer social interaction during the school day, both in and out of lessons
  • Spent break and lunch times in quieter, more closely adult supervised areas of the school
  • Reported having far fewer friends and were less physically active
  • Were more likely to be the targets of bullying and were likely to be bullied more often
  • Had equally good school attendance records
  • Reported similar levels of enjoyment of lessons and of school in general


  • Mainstream secondary school pupils with AS/HFA are socially isolated and bullied significantly more than other pupils
  • Even so, they have good school attendance records, and say that they enjoy school and friendships
  • Social isolation and bullying may arise for a variety of reasons, including the poor communication and motor coordination skills of pupils with AS/HFA
  • Further research is required to examine the risk factors for bullying by peers that pupils with AS/HFA face compared to other pupils

For further information, contact: Dr Paul Naylor, Research Fellow, ScHARR, Tel: 0114 222 0760

email : Dr Paul Naylor