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AAP Revises Guidelines to Improve Treatment of Children with Disabilities

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

In conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new report about the risks children with disabilities face and how clinicians can prevent maltreatment.

The report authors defined children with disabilities as “children and adolescents with any significant impairment in any area of motor, sensory, social, communicative, cognitive, or emotional functioning.” This group, according to research detailed in the report, is three times more likely to face neglect and abuse than other children. However, it is possible this figure is low because children with disabilities may not be able to effectively communicate when maltreatment occurs.

Children with disabilities need special healthcare and educational services, which can pose financial and logistical headaches for caregivers. “Parenting a child with disabilities is often challenging,” Larry W. Desch, MD, FAAP, an author of the report, said in a statement. “Some children with disabilities respond differently to the usual ways we think about discipline and reinforcing good behavior. This can become very frustrating and add to the caregiver’s stress.”

Here, Desch and colleagues suggested pediatricians can serve as role models, educators, and protectors for this vulnerable population. “As pediatricians, we see families every day who are trying to do their best for their children but may lack the coping skills and resources to help manage stress or difficult circumstances,” Lori A. Legano, MD, FAAP, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “By asking questions and listening to caregiver concerns, we can help families improve parenting skills, set appropriate expectations for their children, and help identify community resources that offer assistance.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports and Primary Care Reports. Also, in the new book Pediatric Trauma 2021: Facing Challenges, check out the related module on nonaccidental trauma.