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Most of us know a family with a child with a disability, and I encourage you to share some exciting and important news about a landmark policy from the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) that can help keep these vulnerable kids safe.

Sadly, children with disabilities are at far greater risk of maltreatment, such as bullying, sexual abuse, violence, and neglect. Up until now, standards and objectives to specifically protect them from such maltreatment have not usually been a part of kids’ individual educational plans, which in the US is essential for receiving funding and support to ensure their protection.

The CEC, as the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to setting standards for special education, recently adopted a policy setting standards for preventing and stopping the maltreatment of young people with disabilities. Their policy includes teaching maltreatment prevention skills in effective programs such as Kidpower. CEC standards are not only used in the US but by special education professionals worldwide.

According to Dr. Harold A. Johnson, Emeritus Professor of Education at Kent State University, whose tireless and passionate advocacy for the safety and success of children with disabilities has led to this policy:

Dr. Harold A. Johnson, Emeritus Education Professor at Kent State University and passionate advocate for the safety and success of children with disabilities.

The The new Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) policy titled on the “Prevention of and Response to Maltreatment” represents a significant change for the field of Special Education. Recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect are no longer sufficient. Educators will now be expected to provide their students the knowledge and skills they need to be safe at home, school, and in the community. In addition, educators will be expected to use trauma-informed practices as they respond to students who have already experienced abuse and/or neglect. This change in CEC policy is based on a recognition of the increased incidence and long-term negative impact of abuse and neglect as experienced by students with special needs. The new CEC policy is designed to evoke a cascade of new research, publications, professional standards, professional development opportunities, curricular resources, support systems and school policies. All of these changes are designed to accomplish one goal, i.e., to enhance the safety and success of children with disabilities. A goal I think that we can all agree is essential for all children.

We are proud to have Harold as a Kidpower Board Member – and we are also proud of our partnership with many organizations dedicated to the well being of people with disabilities, including Hands & Voices, the largest advocacy organization in the US for parents with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Janet DesGeorges, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Hands & Voices, explains the impact of this policy on schools and families:

With special education administrators on board, and a document about how safety can be incorporated into schools, we as parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing or have any additional needs should see less resistance to safety-related goals and accommodations. It won’t just be families trying to push a conversation about safety, but a sustainable culture will be created around safety in schools with this policy.

Sara Kennedy, the Editor of the Hands & Voices Communicator and Director of Colorado Hands & Voices, describes the impact for parents and communities;

As a parent involved in education and a mom to a deaf child, I am ecstatic that the CEC has adopted this thorough statement about child safety encompassing prevention, recognition, reporting and responding to maltreatment for all educators, and that the statement includes collaboration with the community. We know that all behavior equals communication: now educators will be developing a lens to better read that communication to the benefit of our most vulnerable children as well as using effective prevention methods in schools.

Again, please share this landmark policy with families, organizations, schools, and agencies that have young people with disabilities in their care. It’s important that they use these standards to help ensure that everyone is working together to protect these vulnerable children from harm and to prepare them with knowledge and skills for taking charge of their own safety.

And please also share Kidpower’s many resources for teaching abuse, bullying, and assault prevention skills for people with special needs. 

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Published: November 7, 2018   |   Last Updated: November 7, 2018

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.