Disablist Bullying

what is disablist bullying?

Disablist bullying is when people are bullied because they have a disability. The motivations for disablist bullying may include; discrimination on the basis of a disability or a lack of understanding of a person’s disability.

Disablist bullying may be perpetrated by both those with and without a disability; and includes similar types of bullying such as physical, verbal, gesture, exclusion and extortion bullying.

The National Disability Authority (NDA) found that children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), are more likely to be bullied that children without SEND.

School children with intellectual disabilities are 3.5 times more likely to be bullied in comparison to their age-related peers. 


People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are often excluded in and outside schools because people don’t understand a person’s disability.


Research by Mencap (The Royal Society for Intellectual Disability) found that 82% of children and young people with a learning disability have experienced bullying and are twice as likely to be bullied as other children. 

Victims of disablist bullying may sometimes be afraid to leave homes because of bullying, as they are feel they will be targeted in school or on their way to or from school.

All children have the right to feel safe in their school and local communities. Children with special educational needs or disabilities also have this right, to learn and grow up in a safe space without discrimination and harassment.

Children with intellectual disability are more likely to be targeted as the may not understand bullying and are seen as easy targets.

Disablist bullying is harmful as it is based on prejudice and targets may not know how to seek support or express what they are experiencing.

Bullies may also target children with disabilities by taking their things or excluding them from activities. This bullying causes low self-esteem, making it harder to make friends. 

56% of children with a learning disability said they cried because of bullying, and 33% hid away in their room not wanting to make friends with other children.


We can prevent disablist bullying in and outside of schools by being more inclusive, understanding and supporting people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEN/D). Examples of some school exercises that can be done in pairs or groups, for pupils with and without SEN/D are;

  • Class projects, daily classroom tasks or jobs for everyone.
  • Make a bullying wall project; “What it feels like to be bullied.”
  • Extracurricular activities; art clubs, chess clubs, movie and book clubs.
  • Homework clubs
  • Buddy systems


To prevent disablist bullying in schools strong leadership and a whole school approach is important to create an inclusive environment. Some steps to achieve this are;

  • Good transition planning
  • Staff training in Special Education and teaching methods
  • Addressing the needs and goals of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Resilience/self-esteem programmes
  • Staff training in bullying awareness and intervention
  • Allocate SNA’s to promote interaction and support
  • Supervision of pupils who may be targeted throughout the school day.