Adelaide, our three-year-old, is nonverbal. I would be a total liar if I said that I have a peace about sending her to preschool this fall. The truth: I am fearful that someone will inappropriately touch her. Molest her. Violate her. And she won’t be able to tell us.
We don’t talk about child abuse as much as we should in the special needs community. Why? Because it’s terrifying. It almost makes my breath stay in my lungs when I think about someone hurting my child. I cease to function. We take every precaution with all three of our children, but Adelaide is the only one with polymicrogyria. The only one who communicates through some vocalization, a few meaningful words, and some signs.
Her IEP meeting is soon, and I will be writing into her IEP some safeguards. As a former special education teacher, this will be my first time on the mom side of the table. I will do everything I can to see that Adelaide’s IEP is suited to her unique situation.
First, she is to have only female paraprofessionals changing her diapers. Yes, women are also sexual predators, but it is statistically more likely that a male would abuse her. Second, she is never to be alone with anyone. Under any circumstances. The school has rules about children never being alone with adults, but that will be written into the IEP…just in case it isn’t followed as strictly as we have been led to believe. Third, she will stay home on substitute days. It is impossible for a substitute teacher to adequately care for my daughter with no training. And this person will not be familiar with her needs, levels, and safeguards. Everything would be a reaction to an issue. I need to know that all of Adelaide’s teachers, paraprofessionals, and therapists know what they are doing and are being proactive.
These may seem extreme, but they’re not. And since we are just a few blocks from the school, I will be available at all times to pick her up from her two half days a week. I will never regret being overly cautious on this issue, because I would rather be too prepared than caught off guard.
The average sexual predator commits 200-400 acts before getting caught. And we don’t know how many people are never caught. I can’t keep Adelaide under my watch all the minutes of her life, but I can certainly decide who will be changing her diapers and where. The beauty of parental rights. The responsibility of being a parent.
***This articles was written in April 2015, in honor of Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Girls in Adelaide’s situation have an 85% chance of being sexually abused.