Children with Disabilities

According to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs 2005-2006 (NS-CSHCN), approximately 14% of children and youth under the age of 18 in the United States are estimated to have special health needs. Delivering appropriate services for youth with disabilities and deaf children and teens should include more than just having an accessible physical space. Programs should consider the broad range of physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral impairments that children and teens in our programs may have. The stress of living in a domestic violence situation is challenging for any young person, but children with disabilities and deaf youth may experience added stress and anxiety, especially for children and teens who enter shelter and have to leave their home, normal routine, and even change schools.

Providing equal access to safety and other services for mothers and their children with disabilities requires collaboration and cross-learning among local agencies that serve people with disabilities and local agencies that serve victims of domestic and sexual violence. Knowing your state and local laws is essential to meeting the legal requirements, but programs can consider a wide range of policy and practice that can enhance their services for families.

Areas for programs to explore when serving young people with disabilities and deaf children:

  • Are you compliant with ADA Accessibility guidelines?
  • Do you ask about any accessibility needs for children and teens at intake?
  • Is your program, services, staff, and physical environment welcoming to children and youth with disabilities and deaf children?
  • What physical accommodations does the child or youth need? Should alternate housing be considered if the shelter can’t meet their needs?
  • Does the child or teen have any special health care needs that need to be considered?
  • Is the family involved in a medical home model, or should one be considered?
  • Is the family currently involved with an early intervention program? How can the program support the continuation of these services while in shelter?
  • Is the child or youth receiving or qualify for special education services or have have other educational needs? How can the DV program help advocate on behalf of the family with the school system to ensure continuity of services?
  • Is the child or youth eligible for SSI benefits?
  • What special accommodations can the program make to ensure the child’s emotional or cognitive needs are met?
  • Does your program have appropriate toys, books and activities for children and teens with disabilities?
  • Do you provide families with access to interpreters?
  • Does your program allow service animals?
  • Does your program include training for new advocates on working with children and youth with disabilities?
  • Do you have meaningful partnerships with programs in your area that work on behalf of children with disabilities and deaf children or support parents who have children with disabilities?
  • How can your program support women’s ability to parent a child with special needs?

Disability Rights Organizations

National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities serves the nation as a central source of information on disabilities in infants, toddlers, children, and youth. Here, you’ll also find easy-to-read information on IDEA, the law authorizing early intervention services and special education. Our State Resource Sheets will help you connect with the disability agencies and organizations in your state.Read and freely share our many articles and publications, sign up for our newsletter, and write or call us for more personalized assistance. We are here to help.

National Disability Rights Network is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Through training and technical assistance, legal support, and legislative advocacy, NDRN works to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination. List of NDRN Member organizations in every state and U.S. Territory.

Adaptive Environments promotes design that works for everyone across the spectrum of ability and age and enhances human experience.  AE provides access to information and guidance about the civil rights laws and codes and education and consultation about strategies, precedents, and best practices to help design places, things, communication, and policy that integrate solutions to the reality of human diversity.

Disability Rights International
Disability Rights International is dedicated to promoting the human rights and full participation in society of people with disabilities worldwide. Disability Rights International trains and supports advocates seeking legal and service system reform and assists governments in developing laws and policies to promote community integration and human rights enforcement for people with mental disabilities.

Vera Institute of Justice – Accessing Safety Initiative
To foster collaboration and cross-learning and to better ensure the safety of victims with disabilities and Deaf victims, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will fund six to ten pilot sites with local agencies that serve people with disabilities and local agencies that serve victims of violence.  Vera, in partnership with OVW, has launched the Accessing Safety Initiative (ASI), which works to enhance the capacity of to address the needs of women with disabilities and deaf women by providing education and technical assistance to the service providers in the grantee communities. Vera’s Accessing Safety Initiative helps its partner jurisdictions—states and cities—enhance the capacity of their social services and criminal justice systems to assist women with disabilities & Deaf women who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.