SCOTTISH teachers are give pupils lessons about learning disabilities to help tackle bullying.
Researchers at the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, in collaboration with the charity Enable Scotland, have devised a series of lesson plans for secondary pupils aimed at increasing understanding and acceptance of people with learning disabilities.
The “talking about learning disability” classes are one of a number of measures arising from Enable Scotland’s campaign to highlight problems faced by pupils with disabilities in mainstream education.
Research carried out by the charity a year ago highlighted concerns from pupils, parents and teachers that children with learning disabilities were often excluded from aspects of school life and faced discrimination and bullying in mainstream schools.
Roseann Maguire, a Research Associate in Strathclyde’s School of Education and the Institute of Health and Well Being at the University of Glasgow, said research showed it was important to talk to pupils about difference. “The idea is to take pupils through the lessons so that they move from an understanding of diversity and disability to an appreciation of what it might be like to live with a learning disability, to a sense of what it feels like for people with learning disabilities to be bullied just because of their learning disability,” she said.
According to Enable Scotland, nine out of 10 people who have learning disabilities report that they have been bullied in their communities.
Theresa Shearer, CEO of Enable Scotland, said the charity had appointed Change Champions to help people with learning disabilities themselves to play a part in changing attitudes.
“It’s time to break down barriers and ensure that people who have learning disabilities are respected and valued, and that any obstacles to an equal society for all are challenged and removed,” she said.
Lucy McKee, 18, said: “I’m proud to be a Change Champion. I want to help others – including the people who bully – to stop and to think about the person they’re bullying. That person isn’t just their disability; they’re not the label you choose to give them. They are a person, with feelings, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.”