Research suggests that teenagers with autism are more likely to be the target of bullying than their peers.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Those who bully tend to pick on individuals who are quiet and shy and lack friendship skills. They also tend to pick on individuals who have different interests, trends and styles from themselves and other teenagers.
  • Teenagers with autism might not know how to join in a group and might act in inappropriate ways. Their peers may find this annoying, and it can end up in physical or verbal clashes.
  • Teenagers with autism may have trouble working out who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys’. This means that they might be less likely to avoid those who bully in the playground/ canteen etc.
  • Teenagers with autism may find it hard to socialise and make friends. They can get left out more often than their typically developing peers.

The following strategies may be useful:

  • Speak to the teenager and find out what is happening
    • Sometimes what one person classes as bullying another will class as something else – try and understand the situation from the students point of view, (see videos on bullying) consider using visual strategies such as the SODA or SOCCSS, Brenda Smith Myles
    • Social skills and communication training may help the teenager recognise when someone is being nice or nasty, shared interest groups can also be helpful (see videos on social skills)
  • Discuss what they want to happen and what they want (or don’t want) you to do
    • Some incidents are a matter for other agencies – this should be discussed with the teenager if needed
  • Keeping a diary of the incidents can be helpful, record:
    • who was involved
    • what happened
    • what action the school took
  • Talk to school staff
    • School should have an anti-bullying policy, the National Autistic Society recommends:
      • Providing all pupils with anti-bullying lessons as part of the curriculum
      • Encouraging children to tell someone when they are being bullied
      • Including all staff and pupils in preventing bullying
      • Having clear posters and literature to emphasise the zero tolerance approach of schools to bullying
    • School could provide friendship clubs
  • Teach the teenager what to do if they are upset by an incident at school
    • Visuals, rules and social stories can help

Helpful contacts include:

ChildLine (UK)

Tel: 0800 1111

ChildLine is a free 24-hour confidential helpline for children and young people.

Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF)


NIABF brings together over 25 regional statutory and voluntary sector organisations, all committed to tackling the bullying of children and young people in schools and communities in Northern Ireland.

Anti-Bullying Ireland


A website created by three students that collated information about bullying and useful tips for parents and professionals about bullying.