Children with disabilities have special considerations when preventing, recognizing and responding to abuse.
Children with disabilities are three times more likely to be abused than children without disabilities. In particular, children with intellectual disabilities are five times more likely to be abused., There are many ways to reduce your child’s vulnerability and keep your child safe.
Create a family safety plan
Creating a family safety plan is an excellent way to get started. Knowing what to expect with your child and setting clear boundaries for adults help you identify warning signs early and prevent abuse before it happens. Learn more about creating a family safety plan, also available in Spanish.
Talk with your child
Teaching our children about sex and sexuality and talking with them about personal space, boundaries, touching, and saying no helps protect them from sexual harm or abuse. Parents may feel awkward, uncomfortable, or even that it’s unnecessary to have these discussions, but we don’t help our children if we ignore the reality of their sexual development. Instead of planning for “the big talk,” make teaching your child about sexuality and relationships a part of everyday life. Learn more about talking with your child to reduce vulnerability to sexual abuse, also available in Spanish.
Learn about sexual development
All children, including those with disabilities, are sexual beings and have sexual feelings. Expect that your child will have sexual feelings and will engage in sexual behaviors, regardless of the type and extent of his disability. Seek input about your child’s sexual development from the professionals who know your child, including your family doctor, social workers, and teachers. This way you can be prepared to be proactive in addressing sexuality and sexual behaviors in your child by calmly responding and redirecting behaviors as needed. Learn more about age-appropriate sexual behaviors, also available in Spanish.
Protect your child in program settings
As caregivers, we need to be informed about keeping our child safe, the increased risks of abuse for children with disabilities, and ways to minimize these risks. We also need to ensure that the people who help care for our children are informed in the same way. When everyone understands the boundaries and guidelines, we can work together effectively to keep children safe. Learn more about preventing abuse in program settings, also available in Spanish.
Watch others’ behaviors
Being knowledgeable about how to recognize early warning signs and situations that increase the risk of sexual abuse will help you keep your child and other children safe. Use this knowledge to set clear standards for appropriate, respectful behavior for the people who care for and interact with your child. By setting clear expectations, you can recognize and respond to concerning behaviors. Learn more about behaviors to watch for in adults and youth, also available in Spanish.
How Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center helps
ChicagoCAC leads the Coalition Against Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities (CASACD), which aims to encourage thoughtful and inclusive decisions that affect systemic responses to cases of sexual abuse involving children with disabilities, promote primary prevention strategies and explore ways to exact policy change.