Stop the Shadows news

Study shows disabled children more likely to be excluded from social activities

Alex Brooker at a table laid out with food

A study shows millions of people admit to acting differently around someone disabled making them feel lonely and isolated.

Out of 2,000 adults, 56 percent who are not disabled or don’t have a relative who is, 77 percent said they never interact with a person who has a disability.

The survey found 57 percent were worried they may say something to cause offence, 44 percent were self-conscious of their behaviour.

One in five have helped a disabled person which they were not asked for, 14 percent said they have made assumptions which they believe may not be correct.

Just 12 percent of families with a seriously ill or disabled child say they can participate in all the social activities they would like to, but 83 percent said their children have felt left out from events arranged by their friends.

Out of the 31 percent of parents who took part in the survey, 74 percent said they would have no issue having a disabled child at their home for a social activity. 

But 23 percent admitted they would feel uncomfortable having them over for a meal, 38 percent believed they were not equipped for having a disabled child over for mealtime.

The study, commissioned by McCain and Family Fund, also revealed one in six have regretted how they reacted around a disabled person.

McCain and Family Fund have teamed up with The Last Leg presenter Alex Brooker to launch a limited-edition scoop bowl and encourage more inclusive social activities.

Mark Hodge, from McCain Foods UK&I, said: “Mealtimes are a crucial moment for friends and family to come together.

“This new data offers an important insight into why families raising a disabled or seriously ill child can feel excluded from such social occasions, due to a lack of awareness of their child’s needs, or embarrassment to ask for support for these needs.

“We want to make everyday meals more inclusive for everyone – so we’re delighted to have created this specially-designed scoop bowl, to ensure that families can better enjoy mealtimes together."

Brooker added: “This bowl is something I wished I had growing up – it’s a great design, and I think it will really help children feel more independent at mealtimes, and give parents confidence to socialise more at social occasions.”

Research also showed that out of those who don’t know anyone disabled, 64 percent admitted to having little or no understanding on what their daily lifestyle is like.

On a positive note, 48 percent are keen to spend time with a disabled person with 72 percent calling for more awareness on what it is like living with a disability.

During this October half-term 64 percent understand it is a difficult time parenting a sick or disabled child because they are more likely to be excluded from events arranged by their friends, although 63 percent believe if parents ask what needs a disabled child had they would be included.

Cheryl Ward, chief executive of Family Fund, added: “Families raising a disabled or seriously ill child experience many barriers to participating in activities and events, due to the daily routines and equipment children need, continuous high costs, and a lack of affordable inclusive opportunities.

“Creating inclusive mealtime moments in communities, and being aware of the challenges families face, can make a big difference to people’s lives – with Alex shining a spotlight on this. We are now providing even more essential mealtime grants to families who need them most.”

The Family Fund has put together the following advice on putting together an inclusive get-together.

  • Don't be afraid to ask families with disabled or seriously ill children over for meet-ups. Think inclusive, wherever possible, so no-one is left out. Playdates can be just as important for parents, to reduce loneliness and isolation.
  • Don't worry about asking families questions about a child’s disability or condition, and any adaptations we need – including what foods kids will eat, as diets can be restrictive.
  • Talk with your kids about the fact that a disabled or seriously ill child might eat with their hands, need adaptations to eat, or eat different types of food. The greater the awareness in other children, the more it prevents families feeling embarrassed or stared at, at get-togethers.
  • Running through what will happen at get-togethers, and what food you’re planning, in advance with families, means they can prepare children, and don’t need to be embarrassed about asking questions whilst there.

[ The ABLE2UK Stop The Shadows campaign aims to raise awareness around loneliness in the disabled community ]

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