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Karen Rogers: Abuse Risk Reduction Skills for Children with Developmental Disabilities: Making Friends and Staying Safe


Aims: Children and adults with developmental disabilities are at increased risk of victimization. Making Friends and Staying Safe group therapy program aims to reduce this risk by developing personal safety and social skills. The structured group therapy program provides peer support and social learning for participants. The parenting component, provided as a collateral caregivers group, includes information and peer support regarding the challenges of parenting a child with DD, and specific strategies for caregivers to assist children with generalization of knowledge and skills outside the group setting. Methods: Eight children participated in a 16-week curriculum-based group therapy program offered at a large urban hospital in Los Angeles. Caregivers participated in a collateral group with a parallel curriculum focused on supporting children’s acquisition of skills and caregivers’ ability to respond. All participating children were from low-income immigrant families and the caregivers’ group was offered in Spanish, with attention to cultural values of participant families. Children’s knowledge of the content areas taught was measured before and after group participation using a brief structured interview and a parent questionnaire. Results: Children who participated in the group therapy program showed acquisition of safety skills. Conclusion: Making Friends and Staying Safe participants increase knowledge of social skills, body rights and privacy, and personal safety skills that may reduce their risk of victimization. This intervention can be adapted for children of different ages, developmental levels and cultural backgrounds. Purpose: The focus of this poster presentation is identification of strategies to reduce the risk of interpersonal victimization among children with developmental disabilities. Rationale: Children with developmental disabilities are at 2-5 times the risk of victimization as typically developing peers. The literature suggests that this may be due to a number of risk factors at the individual, family, community and society level. Making Friends and Staying Safe aims to address personal risk factors including lack of awareness of safety skills, dependency on adults for physical care, and low social skills and isolation that increase children’s vulnerability. Familial factors addressed include caregivers’ isolation, lack of awareness of the risk of abuse, socializing children to be compliant, and unfamiliarity with signs of abuse and strategies to protect children. Initial program evaluation suggests this intervention is effective in increasing childrens’ risk reduction skills. Summary: Participants will become familiar with abuse risk reduction skills for children with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. Results of a pilot study using this program will be presented in a poster.




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  • Disabilities:

    All disabilities

  • Topics:

    Early Intervention

  • Keywords:


  • Audience:

    General public, Professionals

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