Recurrence of child abuse happens to young children, but there is a higher risk for recurring abuse and neglect for those children if they have special needs.
Behavior problems, mental health issues, disability or health problems, special education involvement, substance abuse, and development delays play a part in how a child is often treated at home.
Statistics state that one in three children with a disability are often victims of maltreatment like neglect, physical or sexual abuse. One in three children is in contrast to one in ten nondisabled children experiencing abuse.
Brittany spends her days and nights in a wheelchair. She has a difficult time taking care of herself, yet she must do the best she can. Brittany is a statistic in the numbers of recurring abuse and neglect. Her family ignores her, her mother often slaps her face when trying to talk to Brittany, and her classmates make fun of her predicament.
Besides being in a wheelchair, Brittany has intellectual disabilities. Additional studies find those with intellectual disabilities are 4 to 10 more time as likely to be victims of abuse and neglect than those with no disabilities. Brittany can attest to these statistics.
Consequences of Abuse and Neglect
Consequences of abuse are often physical. Abuse can damage the central nervous system, fractures can happen, injuries to internal organs, burns, malnutrition and head traumas are results of physical abuse. Other abuse consequences can cause heart problems and long-term emotional trauma and behavioral problems.
Children, even those who are not disabled, are at a high risk for developing anxiety, acting out behavior problems, and suicide attempts.
Why are Disabled Children a Target?
Research states that disabilities increase vulnerability to abuse. It is not so much the disability as the feeling that making a formal claim against abuse will cause that child to be taken out of the home, and there will be legal consequences. Additional studies claim those disabled children who are abused do not know they are being abused, or they have low self-esteem or feelings of “I deserve this.” The result? They don’t tell anyone about the abuse.
There are estimates that almost 80% of child abuse and neglect occurs by a biological parent. The behavioral issues occur in the home which leads to parental stress and a recurrence of abuse and neglect.
Now begins a cycle of harsh discipline, rewarded by temporary compliance of the child, and the child learns to ignore that parent until physical aggression is used. You have developed a child-parent relationship that is hostile and toxic.
Brittany has learned not to talk to her mother. Consequently, her mother continues to abuse Brittany to get her to comply. More abuse equals more silence which leads to more abuse. This cycle is turning Brittany into a very difficult child and the mother into a cruel and abusive parent.
Brittany needs an advocate and soon.
How Can You Tell if a Child with Disabilities is Being Abused?
It doesn’t matter if a child is disabled or not, they still share similar indicators of abuse. There are the physical signs of bruises, broken bones, or even head injuries. However, children with disabilities face a huge risk of their abuse going unnoticed. Observers will just attribute these physical marks to their disability.
If any abuse is observed, it is the adult’s responsibility to research and monitor it. Just ask the child about his or her safety and home life. Follow up. Remember, it is also an adults responsibility to report any suspected abuse.
Fortunately for Brittany, she has a special needs teacher at school who is becoming more concerned. She has seen bruises on Brittany’s face and Brittany’s demeanor is becoming belligerent. The teacher is documenting behavior changes and physical evidence.
How to Prevent Recurrence of Abuse and Neglect in any Child
Statistics state that every 10 seconds child abuse is reported. Yet, it is believed by professionals that neglect and abuse in the nation is three times higher than what’s reported. To stop repeated abuse situations, it is necessary to take a stand. Learn the signs of child abuse and neglect. Discover how to make a report. Follow up and be aware of the children around you.
The first step in preventing abuse of children with disabilities is to report abuse. If no one knows about the abuse at home, it will continue.
Next, urge parents of children with disabilities to develop relationships with local victim assistance or child abuse agencies. Here they can learn stress relieving techniques and become educated in handling a belligerent child.
Once the system learned of Brittany’s abuse and neglect, her mother was referred to a support program. The program director suggested that Brittany’s mom take advantage of respite care. A time away the problems can help her learn to handle a handicapped and belligerent child. Brittany’s mother’s education can have a direct impact the entire family who is overwhelmed by a disabled child.
Now Brittany’s mother is taking advantage of therapy sessions intended to halt the cycle of abuse and improve family dynamics. She is learning behavior modification. This includes learning how to ignore minor child misbehaviors and to avoid criticism, sarcasm, negative verbalizations and physical abuse.
Another help that would benefit Brittany and her mother is MST Services. This is a scientifically proven intervention for those children most at risk for continued neglect and abuse. MST is all about starting with small steps with an impact on parents and child’s behaviors. Therapists at MST will be there when you have an issue – for both parent and child. They will help you walk through stressful times by talking, intervening, and providing solutions. It does take time, but the efforts are worth the end results of parents and children working together.
For more related content, visit our Child Welfare Resource webpage by clicking here.