Guide rebuts myths about special needs children

Child with Downs syndrome The campaign aims to make life easier for people with disabilities and their families

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A "myth-busting" guide challenging negative attitudes to children with disabilities has been launched by the online parenting network, Mumsnet.

Mumsnet says the aim is to "support parents of children with additional needs" on a general parenting website.

The campaign includes tips on how "to make life a little bit easier" for people with disabilities and their families.

The learning disability charity Mencap welcomed the campaign.

The guide is part of the website's 'This is My Child' campaign against any misunderstanding of children with special needs or misjudgement of their parents.

"Fashionable excuse"

For example it rebuts the idea that behavioural disorders are a fashionable excuse for poor behaviour.

It draws on NHS information on conditions like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and includes comments from families of children with the conditions and from specialist charities and lobby groups.

For example one parent quoted said their child "is not choosing not to speak, or being rude or controlling.

"He is overcome with anxiety, frozen with fear, in the way others with different phobias might be when they see a spider or a needle."

Start Quote

I am really sick of people casually using the word 'autistic' as an insult; it's so hurtful when it is spat out as a slur”

End Quote Parent Mumsnet

The guide also tackles attitudes which suggest there is plenty of easily-accessible help for children with special needs or that parents who receive disability-related payments for a child are benefit scroungers.

It also challenges casual use of derogatory descriptions of mentally and physically disabled people as "disablist language".

"I am really sick of people casually using the word 'autistic' as an insult; it's so hurtful when it's spat out as a slur," said one parent quoted in the guide.

"Staring"

Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: "We can't all be experts on the many aspects of disability but we can all make an effort to hold back on the instant judgement, hit the empathy button and consciously try to act in a respectful and constructive way."

Ms Roberts said that the website's users include "a lively and supportive community of parents who have children with disabilities and special educational needs".

She added: "They too often report instances of prejudice so we have collaborated with our users to challenge those views and raise awareness of the issues."

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said that parents of children and young people with a learning disability are regularly "confronted with attitudes grounded in ignorance, prejudice and hostility".

She added: "They have been hurt and angered by unwanted attention from people in the street staring at their children."

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