There is strong evidence to support the association between bullying and the onset of mental health conditions in students with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). In Taiwan, the seventh grade marks the first year of middle school, following elementary school. This period is also when peers tend to perform bullying behaviours to establish status among the peer group. Therefore, seventh grade is considered one of the most challenging times for students with ASD due to several changes within the school environment and the developmental changes that arise at this age. This study aims to assess the association between the school environment and bullying victimization among students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) enrolled in regular classes in their first year of middle school.
Data were obtained from the Special Needs Education Longitudinal Study database located in the Survey Research Data Archive of Academia Sinica. The analysis included one hundred eighty-four seventh graders with ASD who were in regular classes across Taiwan. The primary variables under study were whether the participants had experienced social exclusion, insults or teasing, extortion, or sexual harassment over the past semester.
Participants with a higher positive friendship quality (P = 0.027) and who had received more peer support upon encountering difficulties in school (P = 0.041) were less likely to experience social exclusion. Participants with a higher positive friendship quality (P = 0.001) and a more positive classroom learning environment (P = 0.031) were less likely to have experienced insults or teasing. However, participants with more friends were more likely to be extorted (P = 0.015) and sexually harassed (P = 0.001) than those with fewer friends. Furthermore, participants in regular classes on a part-time basis were 2.59 times more likely to report sexual harassment than those in regular classes on a full-time basis (P = 0.021).
This study suggests that a supportive school environment reduces the likelihood that seventh-graders with ASD will be bullied. Clinicians should consider the association between the school environment and bullying victimization among adolescents with ASD in regular classes during their first year of middle school.