Houston, We  Have A Problem

Houston, We Have A Problem

In this world, creeps, jerks, and butt heads are everywhere, and in the world of individuals with disabilities, idiots are plentiful. It is a fact that persons with disabilities, children and the elderly are more likely to be abused, neglected and exploited. We live in an age where parents are fearful to send their “precious cargo” to school for fear someone will hurt them, and if you are a parent with a child who is non-verbal this fear multiplies. I know parents who do head to toe body checks on their kids before and after a trip to daycare. Obsessive?  Depends on who you ask. The fact that abuse and neglect can happen to their children is a paralyzing fear that settles over parents and caregivers of children with special needs.

For those parents who have made a choice to put their kids in a group home or a residential facility may feel somewhat relieved due to the amount staff a home or facility may have in these places. The fact that the Abuse Hotline phone number is located in multiple locations within the home does nothing for clients if staff cannot articulate to the clients what abuse and neglect are. To them, the Abuse Hotline number might as just be a picture on the wall.

sad kid

What is abuse? According to Webster Dictionary, Abuse is defined by a corrupt practice or custom the buying of votes and other election abuses
2:  improper or excessive use or treatment:  misuse drug abuse
3:  language that condemns or usually vilifies unjustly, intemperately, and angrily verbal abuse a term of abuse
4:  physical maltreatment child abuse sexual abuse
Abuse includes:
Financial (not paying clients’ bills when supposed to, using the money for things that have nothing to do with the client); also sexual, physical, and emotional.

 

People with disabilities are at risk because: 

abused child

They depend on others for basic needs
They are taught to cooperate with ” people in charge” like staff members.
They often live in group settings and cannot choose their roommates or caregivers.

People with disabilities may not report abuse because:
They feel guilty
Do not want to get their abuser in trouble
Do not know they are being abused

Signs of Abuse:
*Bruises, cuts, burns, grip marks
*Any injury that is unusual, unexplained or the explanation does not make sense
*Genital pain, or itching or sexually transmitted diseases.
*Not having enough money in the bank for bills, after monthly deposits, items may be disconnected such as water or power, after they were supposed to be paid, (this applies to individuals who live on their own  and have a Supported Living Coach who helps them pay bills)
*Not enough food in the refrigerator or pantry (this generally for individuals who live on their own and have a Supported Living Coach who helps them pay bills) or clients buying staff items with their own money e.g. groceries, fast-food or giving their money to staff.

As a Social Worker who works for this vulnerable population exclusively, I see clients on a monthly basis. I continue to educate clients on what abuse looks like in ways they can understand asking, ” Who would you tell If I hit you?” I always ask them if I can have some money, and most of the time, they say, “No” In the event in which one of my clients forget, I then re- educate them on the importance of not giving their money to people. I follow-up with a phone call to their circle of supports and explain my finding and re-educate the circle of supports on other ways we as a collective can educate the people we serve. It is important to me as advocate, dedicated educator and supporter of the Special Needs community; our clients are aware and educated on Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation.

For more information about this topic please go tohttp://flfcic.fmhi.usf.edu/

Havercamp, S.M. & Veguilla, M. ( 2009). Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: How to Protect  Yourself

Spring Break is gone,but Summer is around the Corner.

Spring Break is gone,but Summer is around the Corner.

  What did you do for Spring Break? Nothing fun, fresh or exciting well, I can honestly say, my spring break was better than yours and let me tell you why.  I volunteered at Autism Spectrum The camp hosted by The South Pinellas Autism Project. The Day camp location is at a local YMCA in the city of Saint Petersburg, Florida. While other kids are attending the YMCA children, who are on the Spectrum as well as have other neuro-developmental challenges as well. It is a camp within a camp.

 

As a social worker who works with Intellectually Disabled and Autistic children, one of my many challenges is finding resources for parents especially when it comes to activities for their children during break time like for example, is the camp equipped to handle my child and all of his needs?  Other concerns for example, what if my kid has a maladaptive episode?  Can my child bring his IPAD?

Matt Wiseman is Executive Director for the South Pinellas Autism Project, which launched in April 2016. Matt is a father of three boys, the youngest of whom is on the Autism Spectrum.

The camp accepts kids from as young as five years old up until the age of 13 years old.  At the camp, kids have the ability to join Spring Break with staff who understands their unique needs. At the camp, the children have the ability to be in quiet areas with the electronic devices as well as be social with other kids. The camp comes equipped with staff that is specifically trained to handle maladaptive behaviors. According to one of the South Pinellas Autism Project Chairperson, Rob Capuano, reports, “Our goal is to have a safe and fun camp, that accommodates kids who have challenging behavior and development issues,” says SPAP Chair Rob Capuano. “At the same time, we want to encourage them to build on positive behaviors and academic strengths.” A camp is a safe place for children who are on the Spectrum.

kids playing tug-a -war

The children have the ability to play with their own electronics. The children stay busy with a detailed scheduled created by staff. Activities include playing the Xbox with games named Fruit Ninja and Just Dance. The children have an opportunity play outside in the play ground twice a day. Children have snack time as well as lunch. These meals are not included and must be provided by parent/ guardians.

The South Pinellas Autism Project past camps have been in Winter Camp in 2016 and they will also create a Summer Camp as well in summer of 2017. The camp is located on the Greater St. Pete YMCA’s Central Campus, which is just off I-275 and easily accessible from all of South Pinellas and Eastern parts of Clearwater and Safety Harbor. Central Campus is at 5175 45th St N in St Petersburg, FL 33714. Hours are weekdays 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The cost is $150 a week, and there is tuition assistance available. The first day of camp is May 30th, and it will run about 10 weeks until early August. 

kid on swing

If one is interested in volunteering or gaining more information about The South Pinellas Autism project can be found https://www.facebook.com/SouthPinellasAutism/