We don’t like to think about it, but our kids who are deaf or hard of hearing are at a higher risk for maltreatment — bullying, abuse and neglect. Like any children, they are at risk. As children who might not always be able to communicate easily and fluently, or understand the nuances of conversation with neighbors, caregivers, or strangers, they are at an even higher risk of being victims of someone, somewhere, at some level. We know we can stop that cycle with even one child, one family … because every child matters.
California Hands & Voices is dedicated to this issue. Hands & Voices works closely with researcher Harold Johnson, past professor at Michigan State University to understand the scope of this problem, partner with supporting agencies (who often need to learn more about deafness), and teach ourselves how best to Observe, Understand, and Respond to our children. To keep them safe. To keep them free to grow up in the innocence of childhood.
“I am not sure I can talk about this. I am not sure I am the guy,” said a dad on our monthly teleconference call.
We are challenging one another to spread the word about this important topic. Our parent guides, staff and board members participate in regular training to understand how to support positive attachment, resilience, and strong self-advocacy skills in our children as we share resources, support, and model thoughtful prevention strategies for parents and teachers. There’s a lot more that we can be doing beyond wringing our hands in frustration. With recent awareness on safety in the media, now is the time to learn new tools to assist our children today.
Below are resources that will be useful to parents in developing skills that will prepare us to share effectively with their own children. But don’t just stop at your own child or student, here are some things that you can do to help others be prepared:
- Pass-It-On: Share the articles, posted below, and its related resources, with at least one other parent, and then ask them to “pass-it-on.”
- Share the Story: Have a conversation with your child about abuse and neglect (see attached “Helping Parents Talk to Children” below) then share the story of how it went so that other parents can learn from your experience.
- Ask and Keep Asking: Ask the professionals who work with your child what they are doing to protect your child from abuse, neglect, and bullying, and share the resulting reactions, information, resources, programs, and questions so that we recognize the best and challenge everyone else. Ask neighbors and coaches and summer camps about safety issues.
- Consider adding safety statements to your child’s IFSP or IEP documentation. It makes a difference!
- Join us on our wiki and our community of learners. We host a regularly scheduled teleconference call to learn more about protecting our kids, and teaching them to protect themselves. When you think about it, these are life skills we all can use!
You can be “the guy” for our kids, and so can we. We can all learn to promote safety skills for our kids until they can be their own best advocates. The first step is raising awareness; the next is understanding what practical actions you can take to prevent any safety issues.