DISABILITY WITHIN THE APA
Integration of Disability in the International Context: APA Policy Update
By Day Al-Mohamed, JD
Late last year, APA, working in coalition with the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), co-hosted a briefing on the relevance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with regard to Children's Health issues in the U.S. Dr. Harold Cook, one of APA's UN representatives presented APA's perspective at the event. The event offers a unique example of APA’s success in integrating disability into all its areas of advocacy.
The CRC was drafted with the specific purpose of ensuring the well-being of all children, regardless of national boundaries. Good physical health and mental health sets the foundation for overall physical growth and cognitive and social development. However, many children still lack sufficient access to quality health care services. Article 23 of the Convention specifically highlights children with disabilities and their right to special care, education and training to help him or her enjoy a full and decent life in dignity and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible.
Psychologists have a unique role in that they, as health care professionals, are charged with the promotion of an exchange of information regarding the “care of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services.” In addition to addressing children as a whole, APA’s comments regarding children with disabilities included:
One out of every ten children or adolescents has a serious mental health condition. Mental health problems in young people can lead to tragic consequences, including suicide, substance abuse, inability to live independently, involvement with the correctional system, failure to complete high school, lack of vocational success, disability and health problems.
There is a lack of mental health services for children and adolescents. Less than half of children with mental health problems get treatment, services, or support. Only one in five get treatment from a mental health worker with special training to work with children. Families that are poor, are people of color, or have children with other disabilities or health concerns have an especially difficult time getting services that would identify, prevent or treat mental health problems.
More than 2.3 million children are infected with HIV/AIDS. The incorporation of pediatric treatment, and psychosocial and behavioral interventions are necessary as mutually reinforcing elements in a comprehensive plan to combat HIV on a national scale.
Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities
An estimated 300,000 children with disabilities are maltreated each year, two to three times more than children without disabilities. As a consequence of the lack of available research in this area, the knowledge base on maltreatment of children with disabilities is severely limited. APA encourages research to help identify risk factors (e.g., anger, depression, and stress) that may lead to abuse and neglect, and determine the multiple service needs of people with disabilities and their families.
Research estimates of the rate of disability among the juvenile justice population are 3 to 5 times that of the overall juvenile population, with learning disabilities and emotional disturbance being the most common types of disability among this group (National Council on Disability, 2003).
Psychologists have an ethical duty to promote human dignity and welfare, and APA has committed to the integration of disability into these efforts. APA members have and continue to contribute to the inclusive, accessible and integrated design, development and enhancement of educational, health, mental health, juvenile justice, socioeconomic, family, and community environments for persons with disabilities. Their work will hopefully set an example and lead to greater disability-inclusive initiatives both nationally and worldwide.