Children with additional support needs are nearly four times more likely to experience abuse and assault than those without additional needs. Reasons for this include:
Dependency on others
Messages about abuse, assault and how to keep safe are not always accessible to children with additional support needs. Without this knowledge, these children may not recognise that they are being abused or have the language to explain what is happening to them.
It is difficult for anyone to talk about abuse, even more so when there are difficulties in communicating. Children with additional support needs are less likely to disclose abuse than their peers and more likely to delay disclosure. It is crucial that children with additional support needs understand who keeps them safe and receive help to identify trusted adults.
The messages are delivered in a series of four workshops; Safety Network, Bullying, Strangers, and Secrets. Children are supported to create their ‘Safety Network’ – adults they trust to keep them safe. We help children identify what is safe/unsafe and how the body may let them know they are unsafe. The activities and communication style are intended to accommodate children’s varied needs and abilities.
Our programme is designed to:
Raise awareness of the vulnerability of children with ASN.
Help children gain the knowledge and skills to keep themselves safe.
Ensure children feel confident to tell and can identify a trusted grown-up.
We asked the University of Stirling Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection to evaluate the ASN workshops, which they did at sessions in St Duthus Special School – it worked! Parents and teachers said
‘no more secrets, even if ‘innocent’ – [we can] educate ourselves about terminologies and things that we should and shouldn’t say and do’ (Parent)
‘the children were emboldened and given a bit of confidence to be able to say, ‘no, don’t do that’, in a situation that they weren’t happy with’ (Staff)