Concerns for students with disabilities

More than 56 per cent of students with disabilities had experienced bullying over a 12-month period, a national survey has found.

The survey, by Children and Young People with Disability Australia, revealed students experienced a range of bullying including being punched, kicked, headbutted, cyberbullied, spat on and having food or rocks thrown at them. Some had been told to take their own lives.

The chief executive of Children and Young People with Disability Australia, Stephanie Gotlib, said the bullying could have ongoing negative impacts on the targeted students.

“This terrible bullying is really appalling, often involving physical assaults, threats, taunting, telling kids to commit suicide — really, really appalling stuff — that has very damaging psychological effects on the kids.”

Ms Gotlib said about one fifth of the survey respondents also reported they had experienced restraint and seclusion at school.

“I’ve known kids that are put in a separate cupboard-like classroom and that’s a regular part of their school.

“I know of one young student who was put in a separate portable [classroom] for months and months on end.”

Ms Gotlib said seclusion and bullying could harm the self-esteem and emotional well-being of children.

“If children with disability get embedded in them from the get-go that there’s low expectations, they take on that there’s low expectations for themselves. Their visions for their own futures are incredibly altered and damaged,” she said.

Allegations of assault have been made against a South West school.

‘Pushed into the ground’

Like any primary school student, 11-year-old Mimi Varasdi wanted to feel included in class and the playground, but often felt isolated and bullied.

Mimi’s mother, Valerie Varasdi, said her daughter had several disabilities, including an intention tremor which caused involuntary movements and affected her fine motor skills, speech and balance.

“If Mimi gets knocked she can’t right herself or prevent herself from falling,” she said.

“She had a run-in with some girls recently and ended up being pushed into the ground. To hold her down they proceeded to put their fingernail marks into her arms.

“The problem for Mimi is — and I’m sure it’s the same for most kids with disabilities — if you’re on your own and don’t have friends or people looking out for you, it makes the world such a hard place because you need to deal with these things plus your body’s limitations.”

Ms Varasdi said Mimi was extremely social but had been excluded from some school activities.

“We found out she was actually being segregated from her class for the whole morning and would be watching her classmates from this room.

“There was no inclusion, and they then wonder why she might not be so zealous to do her work.”

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.

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