Pediatricians Given Guidance for Spotting Abused Children with Special Needs

May 03, 2021

New Report Shows Kids with Disabilities are 3 x More Likely to Experience Abuse or Neglect

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a clinical report providing new guidance to pediatricians on how to recognize and address the mistreatment of children with disabilities. Also included in this AAP report was an alarming statistic, children with special needs are at least three times more likely than their typical developing peers to experience abuse or neglect. The AAP suggests that this increased risk is most likely due to overwhelmed caregivers, as they deal with their child’s complicated needs.  Financial demands and the lack of respite care can further add stress to an already difficult situation. The report also proposes that some parents may not fully grasp their child’s capabilities and resort to physical punishment for behaviors related to their son or daughter’s disorder. It is this lack of understanding that sometimes puts children with milder disabilities at more risk of being abused than those with more significant disabilities, according to the report. Ultimately, the AAP advises pediatricians to play an active role in assessing family well-being at each visit. The report also advises that pediatricians discuss appropriate discipline and reasonable expectations for their child, according to their needs. The AAP calls for offering concrete ideas on how to respond to developmental challenges and to provide referrals to local agencies and resources to parents in order to receive additional support. Most importantly, the report urges physicians to recognize the signs of abuse and to report their concerns to authorities, if appropriate. However, the report provided a reminder that many children with special needs engage in self-injurious behaviors and that it is very important to distinguish between these types of injuries and injuries perpetrated by others.  

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