- Children with disabilities are more likely to experience mistreatment due to inadequate training and resources.
- Regularly check up on the child to ensure they are safe and have someone to talk to in support.
- Be aware of local child abuse/neglect laws and understand the effects of abuse on children with disabilities.
- Take immediate action if abuse is suspected by contacting authorities and seeking legal assistance.
- Advocate for special needs children by providing resources and support services.
When it comes to a child with special needs, the world can be cruel. Not only do these children often face complex physical and emotional challenges, but they are also at an increased risk of being subjected to abuse by those meant to care for them. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there are more than three million child abuse and neglect victims annually. Nearly twenty percent of these victims had disabilities that ranged from physical impairments, intellectual or cognitive disabilities, developmental delays, mental health issues, and autism.
These statistics show that children with disabilities are far more likely to experience mistreatment than other children. Some causes for this include inadequate training for caregivers and family members on how best to care for their disabled loved ones, lack of education on the types of abuse that can occur as well as how to identify signs of it happening, and lack of funding or resources available to provide adequate support services.
Fortunately, you might be an ally hoping to defend and protect a special needs child from harm. Here are some essential steps you should take if you suspect that a disabled child is being mistreated:
Check-in with the Child Regularly
It is essential to keep in contact with the child, mainly if they can communicate verbally. Ask them about their daily lives and how they are being treated. Listen for any signs of hesitancy or discomfort regarding specific topics.
Having someone in support can help them open up about any possible mistreatment. Regular check-ins reassure them that they are not alone and make it easier for them to come forward if something does happen. Another way to keep in contact is to visit the child in person if possible. You can play and interact with them to see if they are in a safe environment. If the child with disabilities is not alone, bullies feel less inclined to harass them, and it can even be an opportunity to get closer to the guardians.
Be Aware of the Law
Knowing your state’s laws surrounding child abuse or neglect can help you identify any early signs of mistreatment. Most states have clear definitions for physical, mental, and sexual abuse. It would be best to familiarize yourself with your area’s reporting procedures. In some cases, you may be legally required to report suspected abuse or neglect even if the child has not consented.
If the abusive treatment comes from the parents, you might have to gather evidence proving power of attorney abuse. The laws protecting minors differ from those for adults, and knowing the differences is essential before taking action.
Understand the Effects of Abuse on Children with Disabilities
Understanding how abuse can affect a special needs child differently than other victims is vital. Depending on their challenges, they may be unable to verbalize their experiences due to communication issues, making it harder for them to seek help or support. Here are a few symptoms to look out for:
Withdrawal from activities or people they previously enjoyed
This often happens when the child feels unsafe or scared and may isolate themselves from their family, friends, and other activities. If you rarely see the child anymore, and they seem withdrawn or depressed, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Physical manifestations of fear, such as trembling and shaking
This can also present itself as physical aggression towards themselves or another person. In some cases, it may look like self-harming behaviors are being exhibited. When these occur, it shows immense psychological pain and trauma.
If the child you know suddenly starts exhibiting unusual behavior, such as becoming more aggressive or having difficulty following instructions, this can be a sign that something is wrong. This behavior could also indicate an underlying health issue, so it’s best to have the child evaluated.
Another symptom is physical injuries. Look for any signs of bruising, cuts, or other marks on the child’s body that might not have a typical explanation.
Take Immediate Action
If you suspect abuse, taking action as soon as possible is essential. Contact the local Child Protective Services or other relevant authorities to report the alleged abuse or neglect. If the child is in danger, dial 911 immediately and ensure their safety.
You can also contact organizations like NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) or The Arc (The Arc of the United States) that provide resources and support services to those with disabilities who may have experienced abuse or mistreatment. Finally, seek legal assistance if necessary to protect the welfare of the disabled child.
No child should ever suffer abuse, especially those with special needs. You must ensure they are safe and secure as a guardian or an ally. You can help defend and protect them from harm with the proper steps. Together we can make a difference in the lives of these children. It starts with us – let’s be their voice when no one else will. Protecting our most vulnerable has never been more critical than now.