National guidance for child protection in Scotland: protecting disabled children from abuse and neglect

Notes for all practitioners including those working in: children and family social work; health; education; residential care; early years; youth services; youth justice; police; independent and third sector; and adult services who might be supporting parents with disabled children or involved in the transition between child and adult services.

6. Barriers to communicating abuse

Communicating abuse is difficult for any child, they may be confused, fearful, traumatised and uncertain about what has happened and what might happen in the future. The recognition of concerns in relation to the protection of children and young people from abuse and harm cannot be determined by disclosure alone. Not every child will disclose abuse or harm and there should be no greater expectation that disabled children will disclose more readily than any other children.

For a disabled child it may be especially difficult, as they may not have the means to communicate about their abuse experience(s). For some disabled children with speech, language and communication needs, making known that they have been subject to abuse, neglect or ill treatment is dependent on the ability of practitioners to recognise and respond appropriately to a range of verbal and non-verbal cues. It may be necessary to seek support and advice from practitioners with specialist skills who are most familiar with the child and their means of communication, for example Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

The Scottish Government (2011) Guidance on Joint Investigative Interviewing of Child Witnesses in Scotland and West Dunbartonshire Council (2009) Helping Children & Young People to have their say practice guideline provide helpful information on supporting children and young people to share their story.


Email: Sandra Aitken

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