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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

UNICEF Report on Children with Disabilities

UNICEF has a new report, The State of the World's Children 2013. An excerpt:
Raising children in congregate settings is inherently dangerous. Even in clean, well-managed and well-staffed institutions, children encounter greater risks to their life and health compared to those who grow up in families. Children who grow up in institutions are likely to acquire developmental disabilities, and the youngest among them also face potentially irreversible psychological damage.
For a child who has already been institutionalized, falling ill can be a death sentence. Staff members at facilities in more than one country have said that children with disabilities are routinely denied medical treatment. Institution staff have also told us – incorrectly – that children with developmental disabilities lack the ability to feel pain. So, in some cases, medical procedures are conducted without anaesthesia. In one facility, children’s teeth were extracted with pliers; elsewhere, children received electro-convulsive therapy with no anaesthesia or muscle relaxants.

Children have been given electric shocks, physically restrained for long periods and isolated with the express purpose of causing pain, on the theory that this ‘aversive therapy’ would extinguish behaviour deemed inappropriate. A teacher in the United States described one girl – blind, deaf and non-verbal – who was shocked for moaning. It turned out she had a broken tooth.
Unfortunately, the report is of very limited usefulness.  It offers few statistics on how conditions have changed over the years, or how different countries compare in the prevalence and treatment of disabilities.  The word autism appears exactly once, in a photo caption.