A recent survey from leading learning disabilities charity, Mencap, has highlighted the impact that negative public attitudes towards children with learning disabilities is having on their parents.

Most prominent of the findings taken from a survey of 1000 adults who have children with a learning disability is that 70% have felt unwelcome when out in public with their child.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 63% have missed social occasions due to concerns about the reactions to their child from others attending
  • 21% have been asked to leave public spaces as a result of their child’s behaviour

Parents believe that the public ‘are afraid of what they don’t understand’ – and this, along with other findings taken from the research, has prompted Mencap to call for the public to be more accepting of children who are differently abled. Holding back judgement and offering support instead will help parents feel welcome and promote inclusion for their children.

For parents who are suffering the effects of these attitudes, the charity has set up the FamilyHub, which offers peer-to-peer support for parents.

Other findings from the report include:

  • 41% have felt other parents have been averse to their own children spending time with their children
  • 50% feel a negative public attitude towards children with a learning disability
  • 43% believe public attitudes to children with a learning disability have improved

Although almost half of those surveyed believe attitudes have improved, the fact that reactions are causing long-term effects to parents, with some saying they have missed their best friend’s wedding due to past experiences, emphasises the need for people to be more accepting of children with learning disabilities.

Rossanna Trudgian, Head of Campaigns at Mencap says that although public attitudes have improved in the 70 years the charity has existed, ‘as a society we should feel ashamed to have such little acceptance to children who may sometimes act differently to others.’

‘There’s a lot of confusion around learning disability, but gaining a bit more understanding could change the lives of parents who have said in such large numbers that they are in need of help.’