Abuse and Neglect Put Children at Risk for Disabilities

Children with disabilities — safeguarding our most vulnerable

Abuse and Neglect Put Children at Risk for Disabilities

Did you know that children and young people who live with disabilities are more ly to experience violence and abuse than non-disabled children[1]?

One in every 20 children has a moderate to severe disability[2]. Studies have shown that disabled children are 3.8 times more ly to be neglected or physically abused, 3.1 times more ly to be sexually abused and 3.9 times more ly to be emotionally abused.

In fact, findings show that 31% of disabled children suffer abuse compared with 9% of the non-disabled child population. Further to this, disabled children are also at a higher risk of experiencing multiple abuses and of enduring multiple episodes of abuse[3].

Children With Disabilities Are At A Higher Risk Of Abuse

In order to get help when they the fear or experience abuse, disabled children have significant additional barriers to overcome in comparison non-disabled children. These include:

  • Some disabled children may not recognise the abuse
  • Disabled children might not be able to ask for help
  • The child may rely on their abuser to meet their needs – making it even more difficult to speak out
  • Parents and professionals may miss signs of abuse/neglect, mistaking them as part of a child’s condition
  • Professionals working with disabled children may not be trained to spot the signs of abuse and neglect
  • Children with disabilities and their families may feel isolated or without support due to a limited number of accessible services, meaning they may not know where to find help
  • Abusers may try to excuse their behaviour, blaming it on the difficulties of caring for a disabled child
  • Professionals who work to support parents’ ability to meet their child’s additional needs may overlook parental behaviours that are not adequate
  • Child protection professionals might not have the specialised skills to properly communicate with the child, or to accurately assess or understand a disabled child’s needs[4]

What Can Be Done?

Clearly more needs to be done to protect these vulnerable young people and children from harm. Specific safeguarding and welfare requirements need to be included in relevant safeguarding legislation, policy and plans to protect all children, including those with disabilities.

Not only do professionals need to be better supported with training tailored specifically to recognising abuse in disabled children, but disabled children also need to be better informed with resources that are tailored to their needs and circumstances.

Education Is Key

Currently, many schools in the UK are denying sex education to young disabled people, the very people who (arguably) need it most as a result of being more ly to fall victim to abuse of this nature[5]. Disabled children need to have the same RSE education as non-disabled children. This information needs to be made available to them in a way that they can easily understand and digest.

A great example of this is the NSPCC PANTs campaign which allows parents to easily start conversations with their children without having to use scary or uncomfortable language.

This has been translated into British Sign-Language and given subtitles to make it accessible to children in the Deaf community.

This teaches Deaf children about the Underwear Rule and encourages them to share ‘secrets’ that upset them with an adult they trust. You can find the British Sign Language version of the video here.

Young DeafHope are also working on a project with young Deaf people from the age of 11 upwards. Here they hope to raise awareness of abuse and domestic violence. Young DeafHope aim to support these people in recognising, changing and avoiding abusive behaviours, so that they can go on to enjoy healthy relationships and stay safe. You can find more out about this project here.

Compulsory Relationship And Sex Education In Schools

In 2017 the DfE announced that Relationships and Sex Education will be made compulsory under a new curriculum for all schools in England, meaning that children as young as 4 years of age will be taught about safe and healthy relationships[6]. Teachers and campaigners are hoping that this new framework will include compulsory guidance tailored for those who work with children with learning disabilities in both special and mainstream schools.

Best Practice From Oak Field School And Sports College

Oak Field School and Sports College was recently praised by the Guardian for the way in which they embrace Relationships and Sex Education for their pupils who suffer with severe and complex disabilities.

“We have a lot of children with profound and multiple disabilities, and so a lot of people will think, ‘oh, we don’t need to worry about them’. But they’re sexual beings, too. They can be exploited, they grow, and though intellectually they may be working at a very young age, their bodies are not.”[7] You can read the full article here.

Where To Find More Information:

  • Young DeafHope
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway

Written by Sam Franklin


[1] Jones, L. et al (2012) Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. [2]https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9391683/Disabled-children-four-times-moreto-be-victim-of-violence-study.html [3] Sullivan, P. M., & Knutson, J. F. (2000). Maltreatment and Disabilities: A Population-Based Epidemiological Study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 1257-1273. [4] NSPCC (2014) ‘We have the right to be safe’: Protecting disabled children from abuse [5]https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/aug/07/sex-education-special-needs-schools-vulnerable [6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39116783 [7]https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/aug/07/sex-education-special-needs-schools-vulnerable

Источник: https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/disabled-children/

Abuse and Neglect of Children with Disabilities

Abuse and Neglect Put Children at Risk for Disabilities

Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire

In my work with the Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology (CDIP), I have examined the interface between disability and victimization.

One of the most disturbing findings was that children with disabilities were at dramatically increased risk for abuse and neglect. While many of us suspected this, most of us were surprised at the magnitude of findings.

Indeed, these findings have been troubling to everyone who has read them.

There have been four studies with large samples that have addressed the question of whether children with disabilities were at higher risk for child maltreatment. Even though these studies varied in methodology and sample, the results have been remarkably consistent: children with disabilities are at increased risk for abuse or neglect compared with their non-disabled peers.

analysis of the second National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-2), approximately 21.3 per 1,000 children without disabilities are maltreated each year, compared with 35.5 per 1,000 children with disabilities (Westat, 1993). The authors concluded that children with disabilities were 1.7 times more ly to be maltreated than children without disabilities.

In examining these figures, Sullivan and Knutson (1998) estimate that these figures are probably low since Child Protective Workers were asked to make the diagnosis of disability, and they are generally not qualified to do so.

Moreover, these findings do not include extra-familial abuse since information about abuse outside the family is in police records rather than in state child protective service records.

Embry (2001) conducted a retrospective study of 770 deaf adults who were also deaf as children.

Forty-five percent of the sample reported some type of abuse, 19% reported caregiver physical abuse, 30% reported residential staff physical abuse, 18% reported sexual abuse, and 9% reported physical neglect.

Interestingly, parent communication method did not predict any type of maltreatment. However, poor communication between parents and children increased the risk of neglect, and fair communication quality increased the risk for caregiver physical abuse.

Sullivan and Knutson (1998) merged hospital records for a local children’s hospital with the records of the Department of Social Services, the child abuse Central Registry, the Foster Care Review board, and municipal and county law enforcement

agencies. From this, they drew a sample of 3001 maltreated children, 792 were current or former residents of a hospital that specialized in treating maltreated children. These children were compared to 880 non-abused controls.

They found that disabilities were twice as prevalent in the maltreated hospital group, which is consistent with the hypothesis that disability increases the risk of maltreatment, and maltreatment increases the risk of disability (the study design did not allow them to determine whether disability or maltreatment came first). In almost all cases, physical abuse and neglect was intrafamilial regardless of disability type. The majority of children with disabilities were maltreated under the age of five. Children with more than one disability were at higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, and the severity and duration of both types of abuse was greatest for those children with multiple disabilities.

From a methodological standpoint, Sullivan and Knutson’s (2000) recent study of 50,278 young- and school-age children in Omaha, Nebraska is perhaps the best. The sample was children who were enrolled in the public and Archdiocese schools in Omaha, Nebraska for grades K through 12.

The sample also included children who were eligible for special education and early intervention programs (e.g., Zero to Three, Early Intervention Preschool). Therefore, the ages ranged from 0-21. The sample was 51.4% male, 48.6% female.

The ethnicity of the sample was 67% Caucasian, 25% African American, 5% Hispanic, and 3% Asian American or Native American.

Sullivan and Knutson identified 4,503 maltreated children, 1,012 of whom also had an identified disability. The overall rate of maltreatment for children without disabilities was 11%.

For children with disabilities, the overall rate was 31%. They found that children with disabilities were 3.

4 times more ly to be neglected, and physically, emotionally, or sexually abused compared with children who do not have disabilities.

Sullivan and Knutson’s study was the first that had sufficient numbers of children with disabilities that allowed for analysis by disability type. Risk was not equal for all types of disabilities. Each of these findings compared the children with disabilities to children in their sample that do not have disabilities.

Deaf and hard of hearing children have twice the risk for neglect and emotional abuse, and almost four times the risk for physical abuse than non-disabled counterparts. Children with speech and language difficulties have five times the risk for neglect and physical abuse, and three times the risk for sexual abuse.

Children who are mentally retarded have four times the risk for all four types of maltreatment. Children with learning or orthopedic disabilities have twice the risk for all types of maltreatment. The children at highest risk were those with behavioral disorders. Their risk is seven times higher for neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse, and 5.

5 times higher for sexual abuse than are children without disabilities.

A Failure to Protect Children with Disabilities

Unfortunately, there is an appalling gap in the states’ ability to protect abused and neglected children with disabilities. The state of Oregon was one of the first attempting

to address this problem. The task force convened to address the issue indicated that there was a critical shortage in knowledge, even about such basics as the number of abused children with disabilities, and the risk factors unique to children with disabilities (Oregon Institute on Disability and Development, 2000).

They also identified critical gaps in the provision of services to maltreated children with disabilities. For example, out-of-home placements are often impossible for children with disabilities because foster homes are frequently not accessible. The child might also require specialized care that the foster parent is not equipped to give. Investigations into allegations of abuse or neglect are often hampered because the injury from abuse may be masked by the disability. The child may have difficulty communicating to investigators. Or, in the case of sexual abuse, the child may lack the requisite knowledge to know that the abuse is wrong.

CDIP's Response

Our first step to address this issue was to draft a council resolution for APA.

In a previous council resolution, APA indicated that psychologists can and should contribute to a national strategy to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect (APA, 1991), and we wanted to reinforce that.

Psychologists are in many key positions to influence policy on behalf of children with disabilities. They are principle investigators on research studies. They serve as reviewers for granting organizations.

They run data clearinghouses, provide education and training to law enforcement and other agencies, and work directly with children and families. We believe that a council resolution from APA would carry sufficient weight to persuade psychologists in these various positions to act on behalf of these especially vulnerable children.

All policies pertaining to child abuse fall under CAPTA (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act). CAPTA is the sole federal program aimed specifically at child abuse prevention and treatment (Dodgen, 2001). Through a council resolution, we seek to influence policy that comes under the umbrella of CAPTA. Below are some examples.

• Under CAPTA, states are required to collect certain information on each child who comes into a state system. Disability status is not included in this required list, and only 19 states not have information about disability status in their Central Registries of Child Abuse & Neglect. We would to add disability status to the list of required data items.

• CAPTA also makes funds available for research studies, including the National Incidence Studies (NIS) of Child Abuse & Neglect. NIS-2 found that children with disabilities were at higher risk of abuse and neglect than their non-disabled counterparts. Yet NIS-3 did not include data on disability status in their study. We want to encourage the inclusion of this variable in the next NIS.

• CAPTA also makes provisions for community-based parent-support programs. We ask that the needs of maltreated children be considered in these programs.

Although we have limited our discussion to CAPTA, we see a potentially broader application to other laws that have an impact on children and families.

The draft of our council resolution was reviewed and approved at the October meeting of BAPPI, the oversight board for the Public Interest Directorate of APA. It will be on the cross-cutting agenda for the March consolidated meetings, which means that all the other standing committees of APA will be able to comment and offer feedback.

We will keep you updated on the progress of this council resolution as it moves through the governance of APA. Stay tuned!


APA (1991). APA Policy Statement on Psychological Issues Related to Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington , DC : American Psychological Association.

Dodgen, D. (2001). Money, policy, and child maltreatment: Issues in the new Congress. Section on Child Maltreatment Newsletter, 6(1), 4-5.

Embry, R.A. (2001, July). Examination of risk factors for maltreatment of deaf children: Findings from a National Survey. Paper presented at the 7 th International Family Violence Research Conference, Portsmouth, NH.

Oregon Institute on Disability and Development (2000). Every child special—every child safe: Protecting children with disabilities from maltreatment. A call to action. www. Ohsu.edu/cdrc/oaks/.

Sullivan, P.M., & Knutson, J.F. (1998). The association between child maltreatment and disabilities in a hospital-based epidemiological study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22, 271-288.

Sullivan, P.M. & Knutson, J.F. (2000). Maltreatment and disabilities: A population-based epidemiological study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 1257-1274 .

Westat, Inc. (1993). A report on the maltreatment of children with disabilities. Washington , DC: National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Источник: http://www.domesticviolenceservices.com/disability-children.html

Childhood Maltreatment among Children with Disabilities | CDC

Abuse and Neglect Put Children at Risk for Disabilities

Children with disabilities may be at higher risk for abuse or neglect than children without disabilities. There are steps that parents can take to protect children with disabilities from abuse or neglect.

What We Know About Disability and Maltreatment

  • Parents can more easily become stressed with the demands placed on them by parenting a child with a disability.
  • Kids with behavior problems, , Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other conduct problems, may be more ly to experience physical abuse because parents can become frustrated by the child’s difficult behavior and respond harshly.
  • Kids who are less able to do things independently rely more on adults for their care.

    These children may be more ly to be sexually abused or neglected by adults.

  • Abusers may take advantage of kids who have problems speaking, hearing or who don’t understand social situations very well. These children may be more ly to experience sexual abuse.

What Can You Do?

Safe stable nurturing relationships between parents and children and between parents and other adults are an important way to protect your child from harm.

Be Informed:

Parents can prevent abuse and neglect of children:

  • Know the signs of possible abuse, such as
    • Sudden changes in, or unusual behavior
    • Cuts and bruises
    • Broken bones (not due to a medical condition)
    • Burns
    • Complaints about painful genitals
  • Know the signs of possible neglect, such as
    • Constant hunger or thirst (not due to a medical condition)
    • Dirty hair or skin
    • Chronic diaper rash (not due to a medical condition)
  • Know where your child is and what he or she is doing when he or she is not at home.
  • Get to know the people who take care of your child. Only leave your child with someone you know and who can take care of your child in a place where your child will be safe from harm and danger.
  • Know that your child’s school must treat your child with dignity. Your child should not be punished by being mistreated, restrained, or secluded.
  • Take steps to make sure your house is a safe place for your child so he or she will not get injured.
  • Talk to your child about behavior and situations that are safe and not safe.
  • Identify and remind your child of safe adults that he or she can turn to. Role playing and practicing how to find a safe adult can help young children learn where to go.

Take care of yourself:

Being a parent is the hardest job you will ever love. It is easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you have a child who has a disability or other special health care needs.

Here are some things to remember when parenting gets stressful or difficult:

  • Be realistic about what your child can and cannot do.
  • If you are frustrated, give yourself a time-out to calm down and refocus!
  • Ask people who you trust to help you.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Talk to a healthcare professional your doctor or a therapist if you don’t know how to handle your child’s behavior.


There are many resources to help parents be the best parents they can be and to provide a safe and nurturing world for children.

Scientific Articles

The following bibliography includes a selection of articles related to child disability and child abuse and neglect. This list is not exhaustive.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and Committee on Children With Disabilities. (2001). Assessment of maltreatment of children with disabilities. Pediatrics, 108(2), 508-512.

Fisher, M. H., Hodapp, R. M., & Dykens, E. M. (2008). Child abuse among children with disabilities: what we know and what we need to know. International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 35, 251-289.

Govindshenoy, M. (2007). Abuse of the disabled child: a systematic review of population-based studies. Child Care Health and Development, 33(5), 552-558.

Hibbard, R. A., & Desch, L. W. (2007). Maltreatment of children with disabilities. Pediatrics, 119(5), 1018-1025.

Horner-Johnson, W., & Drum, C. (2006). Prevalence of maltreatment of people with intellectual disabilities: A review of recently published research. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 12(1), 57-69.

Jaudes, P. K., & Mackey-Bilaver, L. (2008). Do chronic conditions increase young children’s risk of being maltreated? Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(7), 671-681.

Kendall-Tackett, K., Lyon, T., Taliaferro, G., & Little, L. (2005). Why child maltreatment researchers should include children’s disability status in their maltreatment studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(2), 147-151.

Leeb, R. T., Bitsko, R. H., Merrick, M. T., & Armour, B. S. (2012). Does childhood disability increase risk for child abuse and neglect? Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilites, 5, 4-31.

Lightfoot, E., Hill, K., & LaLiberte, T. (2010). The inclusion of disability as a condition for termination of parental rights. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(12), 927-934.

Seagull, E. A., & Scheurer, S. L. (1986). Neglected and abused children of mentally retarded parents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 10(4), 493-500.

Spencer, N., Devereux, E., Wallace, A., Sundrum, R., Shenoy, M., Bacchus, C., & Logan, S. (2005). Disabling conditions and registration for child abuse and neglect: a population-based study. Pediatrics, 116(3), 609-613.

Stith, S. M., Liu, T., Davies, C., Boykin, E. L., Alder, M. C., Harris, J. M., Som, A., McPherson, M., & Dees, J. E. M. E. G. (2009). Risk factors in child maltreatment: A meta-analytic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 13-29.

Sullivan, P., & Knutson, J. F. (2000). Maltreatment and disabilities: A population-based epidemiological study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24(10), 1257-1273.

Swain, P., & Cameron, N. (2003). Good enough parenting: parental disability and child protection. Disability and Society, 18(2), 165-177.

Watkins, C. (1995). Beyond status: The Americans with disabilities act and the parental rights of people labeled developmentally disabled or mentally retarded. California Law Review, 83(6), 1415-1475.

Источник: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandsafety/abuse.html

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