Increasing positive attitudes

Our research shows that contact between people with and without a learning disability is the best way to increase positive attitudes and that many lasting attitudes are formed between the ages of 8-14.

Coping with stigma

People with a learning disability cope with stigma and discrimination in their everyday lives.

Not being social accepted is a big area of concern for lots of people with a learning disability.

Due to stigma and discrimination, they also face problems in housing, healthcare, schools and various social and institutional spaces.

To counter stigma, support from family and friends and social recognition of their achievements are vital to their sense of self (Edgerton, 1967; Goffman, 1963; Jacoby, 1994; Jahoda, 1995; Jahoda et al, 1989).

Stigma and discrimination in schools

Within school time

  • Being ridiculed/called names by other pupils

  • Violent physical contact from other pupils

  • Being ignored by other pupils

  • Teachers giving unwanted extra help

  • Teachers refusing to help

  • Teachers getting angry about the mistakes they made
  • Being ridiculed by teachers

Beyond school time

  • People in the local area calling them names

  • People in the local area ignoring them

  • Violent physical contact by people in the local area
  • Their parents restricting them

  • Their siblings calling them names

(Cooney et al., 2006)

Children with a learning disability in mainstream schools face a greater risk of discrimination. Children educated in separate settings are somewhat protected from this, though not immune. This can include difficulties with the support provided by teachers and staff that are unsympathetic to their learning needs.

Such experience of derision and exclusion highlights the importance of acknowledging and developing explicit plans to meet these children’s needs, and to work in creative ways to foster positive relationships with their peers without a disability (Crabtree et al, 2010; Crocker and Major, 1989; Jahoda and Markova, 2004; Reiss and Benson, 1984; Wilson et al, 2005).

Stigma & discrimination causes and effects


Stigma and discrimination makes people with a learning disability more prone to lower self-confidence and increased vulnerability (Jahoda and Markova, 2004)

Lack of knowledge and awareness

Stigma continues due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about rights, legality and how to empower people with a learning disability


People with a learning disability face many negative attitudes that can affect their sense of isolation, but others may become more empathetic and resilient as a result of facing stigma (Jahoda et al, 2006; Todd and Shearn, 1997; Jahoda and Markova, 2004; Jahoda et al, 2001)


Research references

Here you'll find full referencing for the Mencap research and statistics pages.

Research references