National reports show that children with SEN and disabilities are more likely than their peers to be bullied. A 2007 Mencap survey found that eight out of ten respondents had been bullied and six out of ten had been physically hurt.
Children with SEN and disabilities are a diverse population, with many different skills and talents, and a wide range of very different needs, including: complex health needs, learning disabilities, sensory impairments and social or behavioural needs. For all children with SEN and disabilities, discrimination based on their needs can be a big challenge. They may be adversely affected by negative attitudes to disability and perceptions of difference, find it more difficult to resist bullies, be more isolated and not have many friends, not understand that what is happening is bullying and have difficulties telling people about bullying. This needs to be addressed across the school and particularly in the school anti-bullying policy.
'Bullying just...like I've only got 2 friends in this entire school...everyone else just runs away from me or gives me abuse. Everything they do to me is abuse. Well, they sort of swear at me, hit me, throw stuff at me.'
Many disabled people also experience bullying in adult life. This makes developing a positive culture and anti-bullying message in school even more important. There have been some tragic cases highlighted in the media in recent years.
Because learners with SEN and disabilities will have varied needs, selecting the right approach needs sensitivity and awareness of the strengths of the children involved. For example, learners with language difficulties are less likely to find verbal fogging techniques work for them. Some learners will struggle to remember details of an incident several days later. This means that in their case, action should be taken at once if it is to be meaningful. Some learners with SEN and disabilities cannot recognise bullying behaviour nor identify the child who is using bullying behaviour. In such circumstances, work with bystanders and ongoing proactive work will be most productive.