When researcher Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, started looking into the maltreatment of children with disabilities, she says she was shocked by what she found.

According to one study of more than 50,000 Omaha schoolchildren, for example, children with disabilities were more than three times as likely to be neglected or abused than other children. Children with behavioral disorders were seven times more likely to suffer neglect, emotional abuse or physical abuse.

"I was really surprised," says Kendall-Tackett, a psychology professor and research associate at the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. "The more I looked into this, the more I became aware how little we have to offer these kids."

Now a resolution that Kendall-Tackett and APA's Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology proposed to help these children has become official APA policy. APA's Council of Representatives approved the Resolution on the Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities in February. It includes several recommendations that encourage:

  •  Inclusion of disability status in state child-abuse registries and national incidence studies.

  •  Support services for families of vulnerable children.

  •  Research on the relationship of disability and maltreatment.

  •  Collaboration between the child maltreatment and disabilities communities.

  •  Development and dissemination of culturally relevant prevention and treatment models for maltreated children with disabilities.

Patricia M. Sullivan, PhD, co-author of the Omaha study, commends APA's call to include disability status in future maltreatment research. "Despite the fact that there are congressionally mandated incidence studies, no data are really collected on disability status among children who are victims of maltreatment," says Sullivan, director of the Center for the Study of Children's Issues and a professor of neurology and psychology at Creighton University in Omaha. "That's just unbelievable."