Deaf and disabled children
Deaf and disabled children may be more vulnerable to abuse than hearing and non-disabled children. As well as neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, this group of children may suffer more subtle forms of abuse, like being deprived of a way of communicating or being prevented from seeing people outside of their usual environment.
Deaf children may be more vulnerable because they don’t have sufficient communication skills or vocabulary to describe what is happening to them. They may be more at risk because they have a system of communication that involves more touching, or they may be living away from home, such as in a residential school. Also, deaf children might lack the knowledge, awareness and language needed to stay safe and make informed choices.
While the vast majority of carers have a child’s best interests at heart, some children are abused by their carers. Disabled children may be more vulnerable because they have communication difficulties, like speech problems, or because they are dependent on others for eating, dressing, toileting, and getting around. Some may lack personal, social and sexual education, which might put them at greater risk. Also, people may think a child is behaving differently just because of his or her disability – not realising that they are being abused.
The effects of abuse can be very damaging on a child and they may not be able to tell you that they are being abused, however you may be able to recognise some of the signs:
- Sudden unexplained changes in behaviour.
- Signs of general distress or agitation.
- New or unexplained marks or bruising.
- Sexualised behaviour.
- Loss of appetite.
These signs do not necessarily mean that a child is being abused, but if you are concerned, contact the NSPCC and talk to one of our counsellors. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing yourself, you can contact us by textphone and through our BSL video service.
To help safeguard deaf and disabled children from abuse you may want to think about increasing their awareness and vocabulary around very basic areas such as feelings, relationships and safety. It is also important that they have the opportunity to seek help when they feel they need to.
NSPCC: Advice and support for adults concerned about a child.
Police: Emergency and non-emergency police services.
NSPCC advice for professionals about safeguarding deaf and disabled children.
British Deaf Association: Promotes deaf culture, deaf identity and British Sign Language.
Contact a Family: advice and information on raising a disabled child.