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The Hidden Struggle: How Ableism Affects Children with Disabilities in School


Inclusion and equitable access to education are fundamental principles of a well-rounded society. However, ableism, the discrimination against people with disabilities, continues to persist and negatively impact children with disabilities in schools. Ableism is another “ism” that needs to be addressed to ensure equity and accessibility in education.


Low Expectations

One of the most significant ways ableism affects children with disabilities in school is through low expectations. Teachers, peers, and even parents may underestimate the capabilities of these students, assuming that their disabilities are limitations rather than differences. These low expectations can hinder a child's academic and personal growth, limiting their potential.


Inadequate Support and Resources

Ableism can result in a lack of appropriate support and resources for children with disabilities. Schools may not provide necessary accommodations, such as assistive technology, individualized education plans (IEPs), or accessible learning materials. This lack of support can lead to frustration and hinder the child's ability to succeed.


Bullying and Social Isolation

Children with disabilities are often targets of bullying and social exclusion due to ableism. They may be subjected to hurtful comments, mockery, or physical harm from their peers. This not only affects their emotional well-being but also their desire to attend school and engage in learning. Sadly, passive bullying and isolation can also come from adults.


Limited Participation in Extracurricular Activities

Ableism can restrict children with disabilities from participating in extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, or cultural events. Schools may not make these activities accessible, or they may discourage participation, further isolating these students from their peers.


Inequitable Assessment and Grading

Ableism can manifest in inequitable assessment and grading practices. Teachers may unknowingly or knowingly give lower grades to children with disabilities, assuming they cannot perform as well as their peers. This can erode the child's confidence and self-esteem.


Inclusive Education vs. Segregation

Some children with disabilities are placed in separate, segregated classrooms rather than being included in general education. While the intention may be to provide specialized support, this separation can reinforce stereotypes and isolate children from their peers without disabilities.


Emotional Impact

Ableism in school can take a severe emotional toll on children with disabilities. They may experience feelings of frustration, sadness, or anxiety as they navigate a hostile or unsupportive environment. These emotional challenges can interfere with their ability to concentrate and learn effectively.


So, How Do We Combat Ableism in Schools?

To create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment for children with disabilities, we must:

  • Raise Awareness: Schools, teachers, and parents should actively educate themselves about ableism and its impact on children with disabilities.

  • Advocate for Inclusivity: Push for inclusive education policies that ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to resources, support, and opportunities.

  • Promote Empathy: Encourage students to learn about and empathize with their peers with disabilities, fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding.

  • Provide Training: Schools can offer training for teachers and staff on how to support children with disabilities effectively, including creating accessible learning environments.

  • Encourage Peer Support: Promote peer mentoring and support programs to help children with disabilities feel included and valued.

Ableism remains a significant obstacle for children with disabilities in schools. However, by raising awareness, advocating for inclusivity, and fostering empathy and support, we can work together to create a more inclusive educational environment where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

Inclusiveology supports parents with coaching and advocacy to ensure that their child has the supports necessary to be successfully included in school. When the right supports are in place, children can access, engage, and be more independent.


Schedule a free consultation here to get the conversation started.


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