Media reports play an important role in bringing attention to the problem of
special needs abuse. Two recent reports on abuse that is alleged to have occurred in assisted
living and school settings illustrate this role.
One report concerns a mother's claim that her 24-year-old autistic
son was beaten with a three-hole punch by a care worker at a Central Florida
Group Homes facility.
Channel 9 News, the woman alleges that her son was attacked after a dispute over cereal
at the Clermont assisted living facility. The care worker maintains that
the man attacked her, and she responded in self-defense.
Channel 9 has previously reported on other alleged cases of abuse at other
Central Florida Group Homes locations, including cases involving sexual
abuse and a death.
The other report on the
Autism Daily Newscast involves a disturbing video that appears to show a 14-year-old autistic
girl in Alachua County being assaulted by a school aide.
The video, which is posted on the website, shows the girl sitting on a
school bus while a 76-year-old aide slams her head against a window.
According to the report, the aide claims that the girl kicked him in the
face before the incident. However, the report adds, the girl did not have
a history of aggression.
Getting a Clearer Picture of the Problem of Special Needs Abuse
These reported incidents underscore a larger problem that researchers are
only just beginning to understand in more detail.
Although there have been studies on special needs abuse dating back to
the 1990s, many agencies that focus on disabilities agree that those studies
focused on too small of a population.
Newer research is helping to paint a somewhat better picture of the scope
of the problem. A report from the federal
Child Welfare Information Gateway notes that children with emotional and behavioral disorders like autism
are at an increased risk for abuse.
In addition, children with communication impairments, sensory differences
and learning disabilities are also more likely to be victimized than those
with more severe disabilities. This means that many children with "invisible
disabilities" may be the most vulnerable of all.
The report also describes the challenges that families of special needs
children face when it comes to ensuring their child's wellbeing. One
complication is the social stigma surrounding people with disabilities.
Some experts hypothesize that the stigma is so powerful that it could
actually be the trigger for abuse - not the disability itself.
Additionally, a lack of appropriate services to care for the most severely
affected individuals can lead families to keep quiet about suspected cases of abuse.
Although group homes exist, many states lack enough facilities to accommodate
the special needs population that needs extra care. For parents who are
unable to provide the care their child needs, they may feel compelled
to not report possible abuse out of fear that their child will have nowhere
else to go.
But cases of special needs abuse must be brought to light. Stressed families
do not have to carry the burden alone.
If you believe that your child was the victim of special needs abuse, the
attorneys at The Maher Law Firm have the experience to help you fight
for the ones you love.
Contact us today to learn more.