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UK study finds disabled children face policy, attitude barriers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
A UK study shows disabled children face barriers mostly from other's attitudes.

According to a study from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), disabled children face unnecessary barriers that include bullying, violence, discrimination and exclusion from activities. Because of other people’s attitudes, children with disabilities seldom have a chance to develop their full potential.

Dan Goodley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, who implemented the study at the Manchester Metropolitan University said, "The biggest barriers they meet are the attitudes of other people and widespread forms of institutional discrimination."

They say disabled children are often not permitted to play like other children because of “concerns about their 'leaky and unruly' bodies.”

Goodley says disabled children have much to offer. In their study, Goodley and Runswick-Cole found many children who may not fit the stereotypical “normal” description “have untapped reserves of potential and high aspirations which can be fulfilled when their families receive effective support.

There are also many amazing families who should be celebrated for the way they fight for their children.”

The study Does Every Child Matter, post Blair?, was designed to find out what life is like for a disabled child.

Through a series of interviews with disabled children and their families, the researchers found children with disabilities do matter.

The researchers wanted to find out if the UK’s “The Aiming High for Disabled Children” policy agenda, intended to help disabled children be 'healthy', 'stay safe', 'enjoy and achieve', 'make a positive contribution' and 'achieve economic well-being' is working.

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Key findings cited from the study results were that children with disabilities are excluded from friendships, education and work, perceived as “lacking” by educational and professionals who provide care and have limited physical access and transportation to sport and leisure activities.

Bullying found in the study consisted of manhandling in school to psychological bullying, which can be unnoticed by adults.

The results also showed families of children with physical or other impairments experience isolation and poverty.

“There is an 'epidemic' of labeling children as disabled," Professor Goodley and Dr Runswick-Cole warn.

Parents are repeatedly under pressure to talk about what their children can't do in order to access services and support, but sometimes the label can obscure the individual. Families should be asked what support their child requires, not what is the 'matter' with him or her."

"Pressures on schools are getting worse. We found a case where parents of non-disabled children petitioned to exclude a disabled child. What does this say about the meaning of education and community?"

The UK study results showed disabled children often experience violence, discrimination and exclusion from activities that hinders development and overall well-being.

The researchers say the biggest barriers for children with disabilities “…are the attitudes of other people and widespread forms of institutional discrimination." The researchers are calling for policy and attitude changes toward disability.

Image credit: Morguefile