Today is Universal Children’s Day and PROChild has decided to look into the issue of education and children with disabilities. PROChild is committed to protecting child abuse and ensuring that the child is safe at all times. In light of this, today’s article will highlight the importance of recognizing disability in children and how to protect the most vulnerable among an already vulnerable group from abuse.
For the most part, the education of children is recognized universally as a right of the child. However, most people are unfamiliar with the rights of the disabled child. Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children emphasizes the rights of children with disabilities, “States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community” (Article 23, UNCRC). On gov.uk, the rights of a disabled child are further emphasized in relation to the education of that child, “It’s against the law for a school or other education provider to treat disabled students unfavourably.”
The UK Equality Act 2010 defines a disabled person as someone with a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities(UK Equality Act, 2010). Children rely on adults greatly to go about their day to day life because there are certain things that they are not well equipped to handle on their own. This dependence on adults is what makes children so vulnerable. Children with disabilities on the other hand are more vulnerable than their peers because they might require even more adult supervision.
Similar to both the UK Equality Act and the 23rd convention of the UNCRC, article 24 of the European Union Charter recognises specific rights that are relevant to children. This article emphasizes that the best interest of the child must be upheld all the time. Chapter 4.3 of the member states policies, acknowledges that children with disabilities might have different needs than their peers. This chapter further emphasizes that it is the responsibility of adults in charge of children to act in what they might perceive to be in the best interests of the child.
Children with disabilities might need more accommodation than their peers and it is very easy for education providers to allow their frustrations and inabilities to cater for such children get in the way of educating them. According to the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), children with disabilities are at a higher risk of getting abused in comparison to their peers. The NSPCC also argues that bullying is one of the prevalent forms of abuse in the lives of children with disabilities (Brown, 2012). It takes even longer for children with disabilities to report abuse and since they rely rather heavily on family and those around them, it is very hard for them to report when the person abusing them is the abuser is their care-giver.
In this respect, it is very important that educators are given adequate information about children with disabilities. Essentially, ensuring that a child is able to talk to an educator about their problems might facilitate early reporting and stop abuse before it gets out of hand. Parents should also make more of an effort to connect with children with disabilities. While they might feel as though the children are not ready to be independent, children with disabilities should also be given a chance to have a say in their own lives. In doing this, trust is established because the child’s view is taken into consideration.
Another aspect of bullying in the life of a disabled child which is often glossed over is bullying by classmates and sometimes, even friends. Other children might not understand why a disabled child might be unable to do the things that everyone around them is doing. It is the responsibility of teachers, parents and the community as a whole to raise awareness of disability in children. Disability should be explained simply to children, void of the huge vocabulary which scares even adults. Other children should be made to understand that these children should not be defined by their inability to do certain things. Rather, they should be treated like anyone else with the love and respect that they need. The inability of children with disabilities to adapt well with their peers might lead to them failing in classes or even dropping out because they feel as though they do not fit in. According to the European Journal of Disability Research, “A total of 53.8% of disabled students are classified as early school leavers compared to 31.5% among their non-disabled peers” (Biewer, 2015). Reducing these figures should be a priority and it would be immensely helpful if measures were put in place to support children with disabilities rather than discourage them from learning.
The first objective of PROChild is to protect the fundamental rights of children. The reason why PROChild decided to emphasize the rights of children with disabilities is because they are most often ignored. Since PROChild’s aim is to protect all children from abuse, it is very important to shed a light on children with disabilities today. Education was the chosen field of study because more children spend a good chunk of their time in a learning environment than not. In the case of children with disabilities, some families are very protective of them and do all that is in their power to ensure that they have a great childhood. However, bullying and other forms of discrimination are all forms of abuse against the child. It is important that people understand that a disability does not excuse a person who discriminates against another. Also, discrimination in children may hinder their mental growth and stunt their overall development.
When it comes to children with disabilities, we must remember to be very patient but most importantly, they are children just like their other peers. It is imperative that they are given special care and even extra assistance. However, at the end of the day, children just want to have fun and play with their friends.
“UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).” Unicef UK, www.unicef.org.uk/what-we-do/un-convention-child-rights/.
Government Digital Service. “Definition of Disability under the Equality Act 2010.” GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 23 Sept. 2015, www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010.
“European Parliament .” European Parliament, www.europarl.europa.eu/portal/en.
Brown, Jon. “Disabled Children Have an Equal Right to Protection from Abuse.” NSPCC, www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/news-opinion/disabled-children-equal-right-protection-abuse/.
Biewer, Gottfried, et al. “Pathways to Inclusion in European Higher Education Systems.” Alter, Elsevier Masson, 4 Mar. 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1875067215000206.