The Stay Safe Programme for children with special needs
Why Children with a disability may be more vulnerable
Helping to protect your child from abuse
'Personal Safety Skills for Children with Learning Difficulties' has been designed by the Child Abuse Prevention Programme to assist the teaching of safety skills to children with special needs. Although targeted at children with a disability in the six-to-thirteen age group, the programme may also be suitable for some older children with special needs.
Lessons for this programme cover the same topics as the main programme, and are divided into five categories to cater for children with the following special needs: visual impairment, physical disability, cognitive-learning difficulties, hearing impairment, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Use may be made of the material from each of the five categories depending on the needs of the child. There are thirty worksheets to accompany these lessons. Teachers may also use the mainstream Stay Safe lessons to supplement this work.
Considerable time will need to be given to the development of personal safety skills for children with special needs. You may wish to discuss with your child's teacher how you can support the teaching of the programme to your child.
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Children with a disability need personal safety skills. Recent studies have found that children with a disability are more likely to experience abuse than non-disabled children for reasons such as the following:
Poor communication skills
Limited sense of danger
Need for intimate care such as washing and toileting
Lack of mobility
Reliance on adults for many of their needs
A variety of carers and care settings
Need for attention, friendship or affection
Poor self-confidence and limited assertiveness
Fear of not being believed
Limited understanding of sexuality or sexual behaviour.
Children with a disability are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of isolation and powerlessness.
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Helping to protect
your child from abuse
As a parent/guardian of a child with a disability, you'll be aware of the extra help that your child needs and the extra adults/carers in your child's life. It's important, however, that you encourage your child to be as independent and confident as possible.
You can develop your child's self-confidence and independence by . . .
Emphasising your child's strengths
Allowing your child to make choices and decisions
Encouraging independence in dressing, hygiene and cleanliness
Developing appropriate social skills - greeting others, good manners, etc.
Teaching your child how to say or write his or her name, address and phone number
Ensuring he or she can ask for directions and make emergency telephone calls
Recognising the child's need for dignity and privacy. It's important to have rules as to who looks after the intimate needs of your child and to ensure that your child feels comfortable with whatever arrangements are made. It should always be explained to a child what is being done and why
Discussing 'what if' situations with your child. Children with disabilities may need specific rules for each specific situation. They will need to practise these rules and to practise saying 'No'
Ensuring your child knows what is meant by 'safe', 'unsafe', 'private', 'secret', 'stranger', 'trust', 'rights', etc.
Adapting some of the 'Suggestions for Parents/Guardians' outlined in the previous section to suit you and your child. For example, if your child has speech difficulties, it's important that he or she has some other way of letting you know they're upset or need help.
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