City researchers play role in anti-bullying campaign

Researchers at the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow are contributing to a national campaign to tackle bullying of people with learning disabilities.

The research team have devised a series of five lesson plans for secondary S1 and S2 pupils aimed at increasing understanding and acceptance of people with learning disabilities.

The ‘Talking about learning disability’ lesson plans are available to teachers throughout Scotland and offer a ready-made series of lessons to be delivered as part of the S1 and S2 PSE curriculum.

The lessons are based upon findings from three sources, a literature review of anti-bullying interventions, an overview of current practice and perhaps most importantly the experiences and views of people with learning disabilities and their families.

Roseann Maguire, a Research Associate in Strathclyde’s School of Education and the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, explained the rationale of lessons.

She said: “All of the evidence from the three strands of enquiry pointed to the need to talk about difference. Hence the lessons begin with a discussion of diversity before moving on to explore disability, through an understanding and celebration of diversity.

“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.

“The lessons then end on a positive note by considering the opportunities and benefits of inclusion. We aim to promote empathy for people with learning disabilities by encouraging pupils to play an active role in each of the lessons.”

The lesson plans form a key part of ENABLE Scotland charity’s #BetheChange campaign which is promoting 'change through understanding’, with Change Champions working to help break down barriers in their communities and challenge perceptions

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: “#BetheChange aims to empower people who have learning disabilities to drive forward attitudinal change in their community.

“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.”

Lucy McKee, 18, is one of ENABLE Scotland’s Change Champions. She 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.
“Children need to learn about disability before they form pre-conceived ideas and start to see disability as a negative. We can all be guilty of judging a book by its cover. We’ve all done it. But we should all take the time to get to know the person.”

The Change Champions are devising their workshops to be delivered in 2018 to youth groups in local communities, including Scouts, Guides, council-run youth groups and sports clubs.

The Talking About Learning Disability project was funded by the Scottish Government and was led by Alastair Wilson, Senior Research Fellow at Strathclyde’s School of Education and Professor Andrew Jahoda of the Institute of Health and Well Being at the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with ENABLE. The lesson plans were produced in collaboration with Ian Ennis at the School of Education, University of Strathclyde.

The #BeTheChange campaign is supported by funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

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First published: 6 December 2017