Special needs children may be at a higher risk for abuse, emotional or verbal, than other children, and this carries into the classroom. Knowing and understanding the warning signs of abuse will help you to protect your child from any danger that may be lurking in the classroom.
Often, children with autism have difficulty communicating with their parents about things that have happened, or difficulty conveying their thoughts and emotions. This is what makes a child with special needs the ideal victim for an abuser.
Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult for a parent to get an accurate picture of events from the child. Instead, a parent who suspects abuse should do a physical exam, and perhaps have a difficult conversation with a teacher.
There are some common resulting behaviors and signs of abuse that should be red flags for parents:
- If your child is being abused at school, he or she may show sudden changes in behavior in the classroom or a downturn in school performance.
- Your child may also seem particularly watchful, as though he or she is waiting for something bad to happen.
- If your child demonstrates obvious fear or a refusal to go to school. While many children are sometimes reluctant to go to school for various innocent reasons, it may mean there is something happening in the classroom to make him or her truly fearful.
Furthermore, if you have concerns that your child or the special needs children are at a higher risk for abuse within their school, consider these risk factors for institutional abuse:
- An institutional culture that promotes a power imbalance between teachers and students.
- Tolerating inappropriate behavior from children in the classroom.
- Putting vulnerable children, such as special needs children, together with other children who might harm them, especially known bullies.
- Keeping children isolated or separate from other students or teachers.
- A system that makes it difficult or impossible to report concerns within a classroom.
State and federal laws protect public schools and their faculty, but laws protect you and your child as well. If special needs children may be at a higher risk for abuse, don’t look the other way. Speak up immediately on behalf of your child’s rights.