Countering Workplace Bullying for People with an Intellectual Disability

Posted on: 26 February 2013

Let me be ME!

The Anti-Bullying Centre (ABC) at Trinity College has found there is a lack of knowledge and procedure for professionals in managing cases of bullying involving people with an intellectual disability in the workplace.  This is according to a European study carried out by Professor Mona O’Moore and Claire Healy at the ABC as part of the Let me be ME! Project.

The ABC carried out a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) of 190 trainers, parents, employers and individuals with an intellectual disability in Ireland, Germany, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Spain.  The Training Needs Analysis employed qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and although small in scale provided an in-depth understanding of the issue of bullying and how it affects the lives of people with an intellectual disability.

The Centre discovered there is a lack of knowledge and procedure for professionals in managing cases of bullying for the target group.  The TNA also highlighted the need for a comprehensive anti-bullying programme to be implemented, one that provides support for people who have been bullied in the form of assertiveness and social skills training to aid them in articulating and reporting bullying.

Despite national differences, the study shows a number of similarities in all countries.

– The most common form of bullying was found to be verbal in nature (name-calling, shouting)

– Most victims stated they had great difficulty in reporting bullying to the relevant authorities and describing their experiences.

– The effects of bullying were found to be depression, stress, anxiety and a fear of not being believed which lead to a sense of helplessness over time.  Loss of industry productivity was also reported.

On completion of the TNA the Centre consulted with a group of experts in the area of intellectual disability who confirmed that the Training Needs Analysis is a true reflection of reality i.e. that bullying is an issue for this group in the workplace and that effective prevention and management requires special training and procedures.

The TNA highlighted problems with communication added to the sometimes subtle nature of bullying means that bullying often goes unnoticed and can be difficult to detect and report.

The TNA has formed the basis of a practice-based training toolkit that aims to prepare trainers and employers for dealing with bullying relating to people with an intellectual disability.   Let me be ME!, a Leonardo Da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme, is of two years duration, having begun work in October 2011.  It has just completed its second phase, the development of training materials for all groups in prevention and management of bullying and is about to enter its third phase, the adaptation of materials followed by a pilot test phase with professionals, trainers and people with an intellectual disability.

Professionals working in the area and families and individuals affected by intellectual disability have expressed a lot of interest in this project and are hopeful that it will lead to more effective management of bullying in the workplace for the target group.