Are ADHD Students More Likely to Bully, Be Bullied?

In the wake of a number of suicides by adolescents and teenagers, newspapers and online news sites invested significant space to address the devastating impact of bullying on struggling young people.

Once viewed as an unavoidable (and relatively harmless) aspect of growing up, bullying is now being discussed in a more critical light as awareness increases about the prevalence and the impact of this destructive practice.

Though learning differences and behavior disorders do not appear to have played a significant role in the most recent bullying-related suicides, research indicates that students who have been diagnosed with (or exhibit symptoms related to) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be at increased risk for being bullied.

In 2008, Swedish researchers tracked the behavior and experiences of the entire fourth grade of a small Stockholm-area town. Their insights into the 577 young students led these researchers to conclude that children with ADHD are at increased risk for being bullied. These students are also more likely to be bullies themselves.

  • According to the Swedish study, ADHD children are about four times as likely as non-ADHD students to be bullies.
  • Children with ADHD symptoms were almost 10 times as likely as others to have been regular targets of bullies – even prior to the onset of their ADHD symptoms.

A separate study – this one conducted by researchers associated with the Children’s Institute in Rochester, N.Y. – looked at the prevalence of bullying among young people with autism and ADHD. Highlights of this study included the following:

  • The researchers evaluated data on 53,219 children between the ages of 6 and 17.
  • The data that was analyzed had been collected during the 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health.
  • The researchers discovered that autistic children did not have higher rates of bullying unless they also had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The researchers offered three reasons why autistic children with ADHD may be more likely to bully other students:

  • Autistic students are more likely to be male (and male students are more likely to bully).
  • Autistic students are more likely to be bullied (and bullying victims are at increased risk for
  • bullying other students).
  • Many autistic youth have trouble controlling their aggression (and aggressive children may
  • be more likely to bully).


Who Are the Camp Counselors Working with My Child?

Parents usually have mixed emotions when they send their child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Aspergers Syndrome to summer camp. They wonder, “Will my child be safe?”

One of the most important questions parents can ask when choosing a special needs summer camp is who will be entrusted with their child’s care.

At Talisman Programs, children, teens and young adults with ADHD and Aspergers are supervised by a team of highly qualified camp counselors and other professional staff. Many of the counselors are in college or recently graduated from college with majors in special education, psychology, education, recreational therapy or a similar field. Because of their passion for working with kids with special needs, many of the counselors have worked in ADHD camps or Aspergers camps for many years, and they return to Talisman year after year.

One of the returning camp counselors at Talisman explained what draws her back each year. She said, “I have always worked at camps for kids with disabilities, but Talisman has a great reputation and a different perspective on special needs summer camp than others; Talisman isn’t afraid of physical and emotional challenges. Although it might be easier to keep campers indoors, Talisman is invested in giving all kids the opportunity to enjoy nature and to push themselves.”

Before hiring a new camp counselor, the staff at Talisman conducts extensive reference and background checks. A thorough training program begins weeks before the campers arrive, which includes first aid, CPR, lifeguarding, medication management, and specialized education about Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD, nonverbal learning disorder and related conditions.

Robiyn Mims, the admissions director at Talisman, started her tenure with the program in 1998 as the camp director. More than a decade later, she said, “The years I have had the privilege of working with our kids  have shaped my career and life.”

The campers become like the counselors’ temporary family over the summer. The personal relationships counselors form with “their kids” make the camp experience more meaningful. Years later, campers remember the friends they made, the good times they had and the bonds they formed with their counselors.

“The excitement the counselors show from the first day of their arrival to the day the kids leave is amazing,” said Mims. “The staff we hire are full of life, understanding, patient, kind and exuberant – and they dress in silly clothes with silly hair just to get a laugh out of their campers.”