THURSDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- From the time she was a toddler, Abby Mahoney's parents knew she was different. She could name 200 dinosaurs by age 3, and offered up detailed theories about why they became extinct.
Abby also had difficulty making friends. And teachers didn't understand why an intelligent child would crawl under her desk while the other kids sat in a circle reading a book.
"She talked like a little professor. A lot of people remarked how amazing it was she was so brilliant," said Abby's mom, Patricia. "It took us awhile to figure out that the reason she had difficulty relating to her peers was that she had Asperger's."
Children with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, can be highly intelligent but have trouble reading social cues, may display repetitive behaviors or restricted interests, and often have an intense need to adhere to certain schedules or rituals.
As she got older, Abby's inability to fit in made her a target for bullying. When they weren't ignoring her, other kids in her Baltimore school laughed at her or teased her relentlessly.
"It's really painful to watch your child being hurt in this way," Patricia Mahoney said. "For kids with Asperger's, it's part of their disability to not be able to navigate the social world of typical people, so their disability is being preyed upon."
Abby is far from alone. About one in 88 U.S. children is estimated to have autism, a developmental disorder that can cause mild to severe difficulties with communication and social interaction. And nearly two-thirds of U.S children with an autism spectrum disorder have been bullied at some point -- according to a recent survey of nearly 1,200 parents by the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Interactive Autism Network.
Just this week, the father of an autistic boy in New Jersey released a recording of what the father said was a tea
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