Get access

Responses to bullying and use of social support among pupils with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream schools: a qualitative study


Wendy Symes,
School of Education,
Ellen Wilkinson Building,
The University of Manchester,
Oxford Road,
Manchester M13 9PL,


Increasing numbers of pupils with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are attending mainstream schools. However, the available evidence suggests that they face a number of barriers that may prevent them from making the most of their education. In particular, recent research has suggested that they are more likely to be bullied, and typically report receiving more inconsistent social support than children with other or no special educational needs. In light of this, the aims of the current study were to identify the role social support plays in determining pupils' response to bullying and to identify barriers to the development and utilisation of social support when bullying occurs. Thirty-six participants with ASD (age range 11–16 years), drawn from 12 secondary mainstream schools in the north-west of England, were interviewed as part of a larger study examining inclusive education for this particular group of learners. Data were transcribed verbatim and subjected to thematic analysis, and a theoretical framework for understanding the responses to bullying and use of social support among pupils with ASD was subsequently developed. Key themes in the framework included the role played by potential advocates and their perceived efficacy in providing support, pupils' relationship histories and a lack of trust in other people. These findings are discussed in relation to the growing literature on inclusive education for pupils with ASD.

Get access to the full text of this article