The study, entitled Parents and the playground: a study of attitudes towards children and young people, found that 43% of children with a visual impairment have experienced bullying at school as a result of their sight loss. Furthermore, the majority of those (86%) have found themselves excluded from activities by their peers.
Through the survey of over 100 parents of children with vision impairment between the ages of two to 18, it was also found that verbal and physical abuse was a common occurrence in the playground. In some cases this abuse left children anxious, withdrawn and depressed.
Setting an example
Alongside Blind Children UK’s investigation, the charity commissioned ICM Limited to conduct a survey of 1,195 parents in the UK with children under 18 years old which explored their understanding of the needs of children who are blind or partially sighted and their own behaviours towards them.
Reporting its findings, the charity expressed concern that negative behaviour towards visually impaired children was being passed down through the generations, with over a third (35%) of children saying they have excluded from activities and events by another child’s parent or guardian.
Additionally, almost half of parents (45%) admitted that they would not invite a child who was blind or partially sighted to a party or play date without their parent as they would not feel comfortable.
The report states: “Our study indicates that an alarming number of children with sight loss are not only experiencing bullying at school, but prejudice from adults too. Parents’ lack of understanding of the needs of children with a vision impairment is holding many back from having the confidence to include children with sight loss in group activities and inviting them to their home. The evidence suggests this discomfort may be setting a bad example to younger generations and is contributing to negative behaviours in the playground, which are leaving children with sight loss feeling isolated and alone.”
Interestingly, the majority (91%) of parents with a visually impaired child felt that educating other parents about what it is like to have a child with sight loss would help change some of the negative attitudes expressed by their children.
As a result of the report, the charity has created a downloadable ‘Advice to parents’ guide to provide parents with more information about children with visual impairment.
CEO at Blind Children UK, Richard Leaman, said: “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. “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.”
Mr Leaman added: “Growing up with a vision impairment is challenging enough. We want to break down the barriers that prevent children from living life to the full.”