Abuse and Children with Disabilities

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The prevalence of maltreatment involving children with disabilities is at a higher rate than maltreatment of children without special needs. The National Research Council reports the range from 22% to as high as 70 percent. The perpetrators, as in most maltreatment cases, are often people who know the victim. Family members, caregivers, and any ancillary professionals might be the person perpetrating the abuse.

A child whose disability includes communication difficulties can be at particular risk, since that child may not be able to report abuse or neglect. Other children may not report because they do not understand what abuse or neglect is.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana promotes initiatives that can help prevent these abuses from ever happening in the first place.

Here are some thoughts:

*If you are a parent or caregiver of a child with a disability, seek assistance! There are resources and individuals who can assist you. There are support groups and internet supports available to you. Here in Indiana, you can always call 1-800-CHILDREN, or the 211 social service helpline to access those groups.

*If you are a parent or caregiver, know that YOU DESERVE BREAKS! So you might need to gather a respite group of individuals who can assist you with those well deserved breaks! Taking care of yourself is JUST AS IMPORTANT as caring for someone else!

*If you are a parent or caregiver, besides just regular “fun” breaks, you may need someone to talk to, like a professional, clergy, family member or friend.

*Encourage those who either work with or educate your child to use the “open door” policy. This means being aware that there are very few places that one- on -one time needs to be in a private space. Doors can be open during most sessions. Parents/caregivers can be close by without interfering with therapy or educational activities.

*Children with disabilities can be educated about the risks of abuse, and about ownership of their bodies. Basic sexuality education, like knowing the names of their body parts, and that they can choose to give others’ permission or to deny permission to touch their bodies, might be explained in understandable ways. (This can be difficult, as doctors , nurses and therapists may need to give hurtful touches that no one likes, but might be necessary. They too can still ask permission. Parents and caregivers may be there to support the child.) Still, it is important to seek permission so that children learn ownership of THEIR BODIES!

*Lastly, everyone can learn about the signs of abuse and neglect. Trainings and continuing education for those with disabilities, their families, legal professionals, judges, prosecutors, medical professionals, victim advocacy centers, Guardians ad Litem, public defenders and police officers are a vital part of continuing education. The signs are not different than for other children. People’s attitudes about children with disabilities might want to attribute a change in their behavior on the disability, and deny the possibility of abuse or neglect. Training and an open mind could change this thinking.

In Indiana, it is everyone’s responsibility to watch out for ALL children. Let’s keep Indiana a safe place to raise all of them!

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