43% of children with a vision impairment have been bullied at school
Verbal and physical abuse of children with sight loss a common occurrence in the playground
Nearly half of parents admit they would not invite a child who is blind or partially sighted to a play date or party
New research from Blind Children UK, a leading charity for children and young people with sight loss, has revealed that children with sight loss are encountering an alarming level of prejudice amongst both their peers and, perhaps more disturbingly, adults too.The study, entitled “Parents and the playground: a study of attitudes towards children and young people with sight loss”, reveals that 43% of children with a vision impairment have experienced bullying at school because of their sight loss — and the majority (86%) have found themselves excluded from activities by their peers. Verbal abuse, being ignored and in some cases even physical provocation[i] have left many children feeling anxious, withdrawn and depressed[ii].
Worryingly, the evidence indicates that this negative behaviour may be passing down through the generations. More than a third (35%) of children with a vision impairment have been left out of activities and events by other children’s parents or guardians. Moreover, almost half (45%) of parents with sighted children admit that they would not feel comfortable inviting a blind or partially sighted child to a play date or party without their parent or guardian.
“We’ve released these findings to try and raise awareness of the challenges faced by children with a vision impairment and their families. This lack of social understanding and acceptance causes feelings of isolation and loneliness, and our research suggests parents’ discomfort around children with sight loss may cascade down to the next generation,” said Richard Leaman, CEO Blind Children UK. “It is vital therefore that our experienced Specialist Family Support and Education Support Teams are on hand to provide information and advice to families who are experiencing this type of behaviour.”
Further exploration revealed that parents of sighted children worry about the responsibility of looking after a child with sight loss because they do not understand their needs[iii]. Specifically, a fear the child might hurt itself, or would not be able to navigate around their homes, is preventing parents from inviting them over to play with their sighted children[iv].
“With a little help and support, children with sight loss can enjoy many of the same activities as their peers. Excluding them is not the answer – parents should take the time to understand their needs and ask the child’s parents for guidance or advice, as well as asking the child directly if they need any additional help,” said Glenys Critchley, National Education Support Manager, Blind Children UK.
“Being vision impaired doesn’t make me any less of a person compared to somebody else”, said Fadzie Karina, a fourteen year old with juvenile glaucoma. “Not everyone is the same, but that doesn’t mean they can’t achieve the same things. Being able to socialise with my friends is really important to me, why should I lose out because of other people’s fears?”
Tellingly, only 15 per cent of parents of a child with sight loss feel that the parents of sighted children are providing a positive role model when it comes to the way they treat children who are blind and partially sighted. The vast majority (91%) of parents with a vision impaired child think educating other parents and guardians about what it means to have a child with sight loss, and their needs, would help change negative behaviours in their children.
“Growing up with a vision impairment is challenging enough,” continued Mr Leaman. “We want to break down the barriers that prevent children from living life to the full. That’s why we’ve created a downloadable ‘Advice to Parents’ to help those who want to find out more about children with vision impairments. Having a friend with a disability of any kind can only help a child have a more inclusive and understanding view of the world – it’s something we should encourage.”
To view an executive summary of our report and find out more about how you can ensure children with sight loss don’t get left out, visit: www.blindchildrenuk.org/parentsandtheplayground
If your child is encountering bullying or negative behaviour, Blind Children UK is here to help. Our Specialist Education Support Team can be contacted at 0800 781 1444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information visit Blind Children UK.
The findings in this release back up the qualitative findings of Blind Children UK 2014 Children and Young People Study[v]. The following are relevant quotes from that study:
“[My son] would tell me no-one had even said hello to him throughout the day and he spent lunchtime alone with people moving away from him if he sat at their table.” Parent of child (12-16 years old).
“Other children think what she has is contagious.” Parent of child (12-16 years old.)
‘Primary school was a nightmare and my daughter was very depressed because of a lack of awareness by children, parents and teachers.”
Parent of child (12-16 years old).