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Guest Post: Facing up to disability bullying and harassment

juliaeastsidejuliaeastside Member Posts: 2 Listener
edited January 2017 in Guest blogs

Disabled children and young people are often a target for bullying due to their perceived differences. To explore this, and to mark anti-bullying week and it’s ‘power of good’ theme, we asked Julia Griffin from charity Eastside Community Heritage, and Louise Harris from AbPhab Youth Club to talk about their current Anti-bullying Disability project.

Young girl with head in hands

The stark reality is that children with disabilities are more likely to encounter bullying than their peers. Recognising this, Eastside Community Heritage, a charity based in Ilford in Northeast London, have teamed up with the inclusive AbPhab Youth Club based in Barking and Dagenham to address disability bullying and hate crime. 

While many anti-bullying programmes are council, teacher or police led, we’ve taken a grassroots approach. As recognised experts in collecting and documenting community based stories, Eastside have encouraged young people, volunteers and community based groups to share their personal stories, knowledge and experiences of bullying using social media platforms and vlogging. 

In this time, we’ve assembled some remarkable stories about disability and bullying. Community based organisations such as the Autism Ambassadors and the Just Say Parents Forum have contributed to the project, as have many young people with a broad range of disabilities.  For example, Victoria, a young woman with albinism and visual impairments talks about the value of understanding and accepting yourself, while Kareem, a young man with hydrocephalus, recalls taking strength from role models in comic books to manage his bullying. 

Our project culminates next week with an online conference on November 22, at which point the bulk of our efforts will be made freely available online from 4:30pm via the Anti-bullying Disability website.

The power of sharing information

It has been very much an opportunity for intergenerational learning and exchange.  The Advisory Partners, a group of older adults with learning disabilities, talked to us about their experiences of bullying as they grew up in Barking and Dagenham.  We also heard from academic Stella Chatzitheochari, who discussed her research into disability bullying and from youth workers and council representatives.  

We’re great believers in informal and community based learning. Passionate stories from young people provide a profoundly strong catalyst for education and they help change our attitudes towards disability and diversity.

Staying safe online

Our project has also helped disabled young people to stay safe online, to deal with bullying via the internet, and to develop critically important internet skills. In a world where so much news, information and learning takes place online,  it’s empowering for young people with disabilities to create their own content. Many parents and carers are worried by bullying in the digital realm so our focus was to help young people understand how to manage the dangers and use these technologies to their advantage.

The importance of inclusive spaces

The AbPhab Youth Club itself, and others like it, also create inclusive spaces in the real world – something that’s vitally important for young people who are facing bullying. As one youth club member has told us, “Coming here has given me a place, a sanctuary, where I can be myself for once. I can actually feel more comfortable. I don’t feel judged at all.”

The youth club offers social, physical and educational opportunities to 11–25 year olds. It’s essential that we provide respectful, safe and inclusive space for members who experience bullying because we know that wellbeing is essential in achieving positive outcomes for young people.

You can find out more about the project on the Anti-bullying Disability website, with additional materials being released on November 22 at 4:30pm. You can also get live updates from the online conference, entitled ‘Listen, learn and share:  Young people talk about disability, bullying and wellbeing’ via the Anti-bullying Disability SEN Facebook page.

Do you have any experiences of bullying and disability that you’d like to share, or perhaps tips for dealing with it? Get involved in the discussion by commenting below.

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