Children with disabilities are up to three times more likely to be bullied, and up to six times more likely to experience violence or abuse than their peers, Inclusion Ireland has told the Oireachtas Education Committee.

Inclusion Ireland, the National Association for People with an Intellectual Disability, told the Oireachtas hearing examining bullying and the impacts of bullying on mental health, that 35-40% of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities have mental health problems, and that significant work was needed to change societal attitudes towards intellectual disabilities.

Speaking at the hearing Mark O’Connor, Community Engagement Manager with Inclusion Ireland, said: “The statistics, when it comes to children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities, are stark, and there is no way to sugar coat them. Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied, and six times more likely to experience violence or abuse that their peers. 35-40% of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities experience mental health problems – this is five times greater than the general population. At the same time, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Intellectual Disability (ID) services are almost non-existent.

“We need targeted interventions in this area, as well as a public awareness campaign to shift public attitudes towards people with an intellectual disability. When 28% of people surveyed by the National Disability Authority say that children with a disability or autism shouldn’t be allowed attend mainstream education, you have a real problem with societal attitudes.”

Inclusion Ireland called for the following interventions to tackle the issue:

  • The Government must engage in a public awareness campaign on reducing the stigma around disability
  • The government must invest in inclusive education. This results in better short- and longer-term social outcomes for children with additional needs; such as in maintaining positive peer relationships and better social development
  • Continue the improvement of therapeutic supports by providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’
  • Invest in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) especially CAMHS ID.

 

Inclusion Ireland’s submission to the Education Committee can be found here.

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