By Lucy Adams
YOUNG people with a communication disorder are more likely to be bullied than their peers according to a recent report.
A study carried out by the University of Manchester found Specific Language Impairment (SLI) affects around 520,000 children in the UK, compared to autism that affects 133,500 people under the age of 18.
Sufferers show no physical signs of the disorder, but may appear to their peers as â€œunusualâ€, â€œquietâ€ or â€œgeekyâ€. They may have difficulty verbally expressing their emotions and understanding what others are saying.
Almost half of 16 year olds with SLI experienced bullying when they were younger, while 13 per cent of the teenagers interviewed experienced persistent bullying.
Author of the report, Dr Emma Knox said â€œyoung people with SLI may lack the necessary communication skills to enable them to report bullying and talk about their experiences, leaving them to suffer in silenceâ€.
The negative effects of bullying are widely known, and this has led to the development of many anti-bullying campaigns in schools and online via social networking sites such as Bebo and Myspace.
This study highlights a group who are particularly vulnerable to bullying, but who may not be coming forward to talk about it. Co-author of the study, Professor Gina Conti-Ramsden, said: â€œan awareness of the associated features of bullying victims, such as anxiety, depression or behavioural problems, may help teachers to identify victims and support them appropriately”.