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Special Needs Children Need Extra Care – Not Abuse – in School

By Breyer Law Offices on September 23, 2019

School should be a safe place for your child, but often, it isn’t. If your child has special needs, he or she faces many additional challenges, including one that no child should ever face: an increased risk of being abused. Breyer Law Offices, P.C., wants to share what you should do if you suspect your son or daughter is being mistreated at school, a daycare center, a group home, or another institute.

It’s a sobering fact that vulnerable children are three times as likely to be abused. As many as one in three children with an identified disability will be the victim of some type of mistreatment, whether neglect, physical abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse. Studies have shown that those with behavior issues are more likely to suffer physical abuse; those with verbal impairments are more likely to be neglected.

No matter how or where, The Husband and Wife Law Team aggressively tackles these cases to get justice for families in Arizona. Call us right away at (602) 267-1280 if your child has been injured while in another person’s care.

Why Are Disabled Children Being Mistreated in Schools?

The Government Accounting Office delivered a shocking report to the Congressional Committee on Labor and Education, detailing the mistreatment of special needs children in public schools. Dr. Allan Schwarz, a licensed clinical social worker and certified psychoanalyst, wrote an article online discussing why this is happening.

Federal legislation for disabled children attempts to place them in the “least restrictive environment,” so schools often put them in regular classrooms. However, many children with autism, learning and intellectual disabilities, and behavior problems tend to act out, disrupting the class, and regular teachers aren’t trained to deal with it. This is also true in special education classrooms that are overfilled. In their attempts to “discipline” children and regain control, teachers and aides have tied disabled children down, handcuffed them, put them in solitary confinement, and ridiculed them. Several deaths and serious injuries have been attributed to this treatment—for example, one 14-year-old boy died after a 230-pound teacher sat on him to restrain him.

How to Be Proactive and Prevent Abuse

Through eparent.com, Dr. Alyssa Siegel offered advice to keep children with special needs safer. We wanted to share her tips:

  • Get familiar with your child’s teachers and aides: Whether they’re in your home, at school, at therapy, or assisting with recreational activities, you should know the caregivers around your child. Do background research on their educational and employment history, especially for helpers that you hire privately.
  • Teach your child what is and isn’t okay. Early education is the best way to ensure your children have the tools to know what’s going on and to be able to tell you. Explain and reinforce both physical and verbal boundaries, and explain what kind of punishments are never allowed. Pictures can be used to help a non-verbal child understand these concepts.
  • Drop in unannounced. If your child is out of your care, whether at school or a center, make unexpected visits and don’t let them know you’re coming. That way, you can see how your child is being treated when you’re not around. Video recording may also come in handy, if you suspect something is wrong.
  • Connect with your local advocacy groups. There are many nonprofit organizations, often made up of educators, special needs professionals, and parents, that act on behalf of disabled children and their families. Two helpful groups are The Arc and Disability Justice, and Arizona has more local support groups as well.

You are your child’s number-one ally, but you are not alone. As parents of eight children themselves, Mark and Alexis Breyer understand the horrors of abuse and neglect, and we are here for you if your child needs legal help.

Signs That Your Special Needs Child Is Being Abused

Children already have a hard time communicating with their parents. For disabled children, the challenges are two-fold. It may be difficult for your child to understand or indicate the abuse to a responsible adult or peer. That’s why you should be on the lookout for these signs of abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises or scrapes, especially on the upper arms and wrists/ankles.
  • Evidence that the child is in pain, perhaps due to a broken bone or head injury.
  • Changes in behavior or mood that cannot be explained by the disability.
  • Showing alarm or unnatural stillness in response to the presence of a particular caregiver or place.
  • The child tells you he or she is being “hurt” by someone or describes mistreatment in school or group care.

None of these signs by themselves mean a child is being abused; they must be investigated thoroughly. Interviewing fellow students and staff may be the first step to get to the bottom of the incident. Remember, some children with intellectual disabilities are perceived as less believable because they can be easily led or confused.

In Arizona, you can report suspected child abuse to the Arizona Department of Child Safety. Doctors, teachers, and social workers are “mandated reporters” who must pass along suspicions of abuse by law—but they don’t always do this.

After contacting the authorities, you can take a strong step by contacting The Husband and Wife Law Team at their Central Phoenix office. The number is (602) 267-1280. We take these cases to heart, and do everything we can for injured children and their families. Mark Breyer is a certified specialist in injury and wrongful death law, a designation earned by about 1% of all Arizona lawyers, and we know what to do. Give us a call.

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