Lower case text is from Jan Loxley Blount for Parents Protecting Children UK
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF A CHILD?
DO YOU KNOW A CHILD THAT'S ALWAYS BRUISED?
They may spend their leisure time involved in adventurous activities where bruising is inevitable, they may be clumsy or dyspraxic and give themselves lots of minor accidents, they may have a blood clotting disorder, or quite possibly they've got Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or another collagen related deficiency - this would quite probably be familial & heritable (so other members of the same family might have lots of bruises too).
These possibilities should be investigated before anyone jumps to assumptions about non-accidental injury and reports bruising as potential child abuse.
DO YOU KNOW A CHILD THAT'S NEGLECTED OR WITHDRAWN?
This strikes me as an inappropriate question.
Neglected children can be (and often are) noisy and attention seeking, so this shouldn't be coupled with children who are withdrawn.
Withdrawn children aren't necessarily neglected, they might be ill or neurologically atypical, or might prefer their own company for some legitimate reason.
+ Gifted & Talented Children are often bored by their peer group, whose intellect doesn't match their own. They may withdraw to more stimulating activity by hiding away to read lengthy novels, practising endless hours on their chosen musical instrument or by attempting amazing feats on a computer. They sometimes prefer adult or older children's company to that of their peers.
+ Children with Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties might withdraw because their peers perceive them as different and victimise or bully them. Or they might withdraw because its easier that way, as they can't understand the social rules which prevail in their school or neighbourhood. Or they might withdraw because of sensory overload, they need peace and quiet in which to order their own thinking in their own way. They probably don't like making eye contact as that's frequently one of the signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties - it's often easier to talk to them in a car, or overlooking a lake, or anywhere where you are both looking forward, rather than trying to force face to face contact.
These possibilities and diagnoses should be considered before anyone jumps to assumptions about withdrawal or failure to make eye contact, being a sign of potential child abuse.
DO YOU HEAR A BABY CRYING CONSTANTLY?
The baby may have colic? Or it may have proprioception difficulties and not like being put down or hate the feel of particular fabrics against its skin. It may be as yet too young to diagnose as having Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties, but may already be struggling with sensory overload and be terrified by the constant babble of activity. It may have hypersensitive hearing and be upset by a high pitched sound, which the adults simply can't hear. It may have chronic uncomfortable eczema.
There are a myriad of reasons why one baby cries more than another which should be explored before anyone jumps to assumptions that crying is a sign of potential child abuse.
DO YOU KNOW A CHILD THAT IS LEFT ALONE, DIRTY, HUNGRY, OR INADEQUATELY DRESSED?
Leaving a child home alone is dangerous and should of course be investigated, but it might not be deliberate or abusive - mum be overloaded and in urgent need of support, her parent, partner or another child may be disabled or sick and she might be struggling to cope.
Children get dirty, it's part of being children, but there may be desperate economic difficulties that make keeping clean difficult - poverty is often mistaken for neglect.
Hunger is frequently the effect of poverty and not a sign of neglect.
Inadequate clothing can be another sign of poverty, but better off children can dress inappropriately because they want to 'do their own thing' and refuse to conform to expected dress codes, maybe eczema or proprioceptive issues causes synthetic school uniform to feel uncomfortable, maybe temperature control factors mean that a child needs less or more clothing than its peers.
These and all other possibilities should be thought about before anyone jumps to assumptions about potential child abuse.
DO YOU KNOW A STRESSED PARENT WHO CANNOT COPE?
If so please find out why she (or he) is stressed and struggling before making assumptions and jumping to conclusions that she's (or he's) got a personality disorder or isn't capable of being a wonderful mum or dad.
The toll on parents and families of children with disabilities, chronic sickness or neurological difference is massive, the child or children has / have needs beyond normal expectation, the partner quite possibly can't cope and has either left or retreated into long hours in the pub, gym or office, the school probably doesn't want to recognise the cost implications of the child's needs so is being uncooperative, the GP might be sick and tired of dealing with this expensive time consuming 'fat notes' family and failing to investigate or give support... No wonder she (or he) is stressed and struggling!
Maybe she's got endometriosis or menorrhagia or has had / is awaiting a premature hysterectomy or is menopausal and living in a hormonal soup, which makes day to day living extremely difficult - in the days of the extended family others would have rallied round for a few months, but today she's left to cope alone and the difficulties are short lived but well nigh impossible... Her personality will return to normal when the hormones settle down. Her hormonal state must be taken into account by anyone assessing the mother or her family.
Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties are familial and heritable, if there's a child on the spectrum then most probably dad or mum is on the spectrum too - maybe they both are on ghw spectrum and that's what drew them together in the first place! He's quite possibly decided its all too much and left (but might well be sniping from the sidelines) so undiagnosed AsperWoman mum is obsessing about the minutiae of her child's diagnosis and struggling alone to cope with difficult children and impossible obstacles put in her way by the statutory services. She deserves a medal not vilification.
Carers are often unrecognised and unsupported, besides coping with a child or children who may or may not have additional needs, the stressed parent may be a Carer coping with a grandparent, parent, partner or sibling with incessant needs. Sometimes a Carers Assessment can engage resources and transform lives.
These are just four common reasons why parents are stressed and struggle to cope, but there are many other probabilities including not least financial and marital difficulties which should be exhausted before anyone jumps to assumptions about potential child abuse.
DO YOU KNOW A CHILD THAT IS CONSTANTLY "PUT DOWN", INSULTED, SWORN AT OR HUMILIATED?
Parents Protecting Children UK and other organisations working with families of children with Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Joint Hypermobility Syndrome / Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, ME / CFS and a whole host of childhood differences frequently hear stories of these children being "put down" or humiliated by their teachers who aren't trained to understand and expect things from the child which are beyond the child's capabilities... Similar stories have been heard from paediatric physiotherapy...
If a parent is acting like this its probably a scream for help and a need for support and training.
If a teacher or healthcare professional is acting like this its an urgent sign that specific special needs INSET training is desperately needed!
EVERY ACTION COUNTS. IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS THERE IS SOMEONE WHO WILL LISTEN.
The trouble is that those listening aren't trained to ask appropriate questions and look for other explanations - they jump to conclusions without considering factors listed above or others unknown to me or too numerous to mention here - which may be reasons why someone is concerned.
DON'T KEEP IT TO YOURSELF - DO SOMETHING.
Offer friendship and try to find out what's happening and consider the explanations above - only if you are fairly certain it's abuse should you refer to professional services as at the moment social services are trigger happy and are removing children who could and should be supported in school and at home.
Look in your local library for self help and community groups which may be able to help the parent and children.
Examples might be:
Parents Protecting Children UK
False Accusations Support Organisation
National Autistic Society
Dyslexia & Dyspraxia organisations
Ehlers Danlos Syndrome & JHS organisations
Women's health groups
(C) Jan Loxley Blount (23/01/14)