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Post: Blog2_Post

Teaching kids they have a voice and a choice

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

The days of teaching children to blindly comply should be far behind us. We should be teaching children that it’s OK to say “no”, it’s OK not to want to hug someone, it’s OK to ask for 5 more minutes. With that, we also need to help kids learn to differentiate when it’s appropriate to say no, negotiate and question others and how to accept no.

Some ways to give kids a voice:

-Work with a professional to give them a functional form of communication. This could look different for everyone (ASL, PECS, AAC device, spoken word, etc)

-Don't tell them they're "fine" when they cry or express emotions-validate them

-Make sure they know that they have choices! They can be choices of what we want like broccoli or green beans, get ready for bed now or in 5 minutes, etc. In the previous examples, they're still eating a veggie or going to bed fairly quickly, but it gives them a choice. When kids don't need to struggle to gain control, it reduces problem behaviors.

Some ways to help keep kids safe:

-Discuss public and private events and who can be involved in those public and private events. This will look different based on the age and needs of the child.

-Children need to understand the roles and boundaries of people and community helpers in their lives.

-Teach expectations for friends, family and different community helpers (doctors, teachers, police, firefighters, EMT, store clerks, religious leaders, etc), but also that they can speak up if they are ever uncomfortable in any situation regardless of who is involved.

-Discuss and practice role playing how to respectfully speak up if something feels wrong.

-Have conversations that are appropriate to your child's level of understanding about what to do (and how to know) if something is wrong.

All children are vulnerable, but children with special needs are even more so. They often have difficulties with communication and social skills which can discredit them as someone who is able to report and be believed. If you'd like to read more on that topic, read on below or check out the links to go to the Human Trafficking Project links directly. This is an extreme, but not unreal possibility, example I wrote in 2010 on how human trafficking affects individuals with disabilities.

The most important takeaway should be that ALL humans need choices, ALL humans need to know they have a voice and ALL humans need to learn how to use an effective form of communication as a way to increase safety and reduce frustration.

If your child struggles with communication, social skills, tolerance and cooperation...reach out and schedule a FREE, Breaking Down Barriers Call to see how I can support you as soon as NEXT WEEK!

Check out my private Facebook Group: Empowered Parents, would love to have you join us!

Be well,


Continue below to read the three part article on how human trafficking affects indivduals with disabilities.


The Forgotten People of Modern Day Slavery, Part 1 Part of the Human Trafficking Students' Series on HTP By Ashley Keller Old Slavery v. Modern Day Slavery Part I Enslavement of individuals predates our history. It has been around since the beginning of man. However, it was not until sometime in the 15th century that slavery focused on a certain group of people, the African Americans (Mintz 2007). When I speak of “old slavery” I am referring to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. There are some engrained similarities to old slavery when compared to modern. For instance, there is a loss of control and free will on the victim’s part, and it continues to be exploitation for profit. The enslaved are broken down to a sort of commodity to be traded, bought and sold. Their humanness is ripped away and replaced with a monetary value. However, modern day slavery, also known as human trafficking, is not the slavery from our history books. The old slavery was hyper focused on a specific group of people, African Americans, whereas modern day slavery “cuts across nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, age, class, education-level, and other demographic features” (National, 2010; Polaris 2009). People are easier and cheaper to buy than ever before. It is estimated that the slaves of history were ten times more expensive then modern day slaves (Polaris 2009). The ease and cheapness of modern day slaves creates an issue of “disposability” because of the inexpensiveness of the “investment” (Bales, 2004). This “disposability” poses yet another threat to the countless, nameless, voiceless individuals caught in this hell. Due to the fact that slaves are so cheap, there is much less motivation for the traffickers to take care of their “investments” because there are plenty more when needed. There are many reasons that individuals may be trafficked. Some of the reasons are: debt bondage, sexual exploitation, forced labor/service like domestic labor, agricultural labor, sweatshops, begging, hard labor, soldiers, hospitality industries and many more. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that 161 countries have been identified as being affected by human trafficking (Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns). Human Trafficking and Disabilities The International Labor Organization estimates that 2.4 million people were trafficked between 1995 and 2005. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report reports that 12.3 million adults and children were trafficked in 2009, at a rate of 1.8 people per 1,000 worldwide. In 2007, the Trafficking in Persons Report stated that 800,000 people are trafficked across borders every year, of which about 80% are women and girls and up to 50% are children. In the U.S. State Department’s “The Facts About Child Sex Tourism: 2005” it is reported that approximately 1 million children are sexually exploited every year throughout the world. This statistic, as are most, if not all, is broken down into specifications of age and gender, but there is no specific information as to how many of these individuals have a disability. As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is; “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or a person regarded as having such an impairment”. Human trafficking and disabilities is a severely under addressed topic in the discussion of human slavery. There are very few reports on its incidence. In 2009, Stop Violence Against Women wrote an article called “Violence Against Women with Disabilities”. They report that children in orphanages are at a higher risk for violence. Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Belgium reports that gangs throughout Belgium’s major cities organize begging rings using children and individuals with disabilities, typically from Romania (Patt, 2010). Due to the lack of understanding, financial means and cultural stigmas, discussed further below, children with disabilities are a source of shame to their families. Research indicates that violence against children with disabilities occurs at least 1.7 times greater annually than for their peers without disabilities (disabledworld). There are many reasons as to why these families give up their children, such as not having the knowledge or financial resources to care for these children. Other reasons are extensions of cultural beliefs. UNICEF reports, “[s]ocial beliefs about disability include the fear that disability is associated with evil, witchcraft or infidelity, which serve to entrench the marginalisation of disabled people” (2008) . As a result, these children wind up in orphanages where they are much more susceptible to violence. Women and girls with disabilities are especially vulnerable to physical and sexual violence which puts them in danger of unplanned pregnancies due to sexual exploitation. A child who requires assistance with washing, dressing and other intimate care activities may be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Perpetrators can include caretakers, attendants, family members, peers or anyone who enjoys a position of trust and power (UNICEF, 2007). People with disabilities are not seen as individuals who deserve dignity and respect. Even if a pregnancy occurs within a normal situation, not having to do with sexual exploitation, disabled women often do not have a choice in whether they can keep their children and abortions are forced upon them. Disabled women are also forcibly sterilized so that the issue of pregnancy will not become a recurring issue (UNICEF, 2007). Not only are disabled children dumped off into the system and stripped of their inalienable human rights, but as they grow up they are blacklisted from employment. The factors that are thought to cause the most vulnerability for an individual to be trafficked are being impoverished, lack of knowledge or ignorance, others also discuss that being a female and a minority exacerbate the issues (UNIAP, 2007). However, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and the Strategic Information Response Network (SIREN) warn against over generalizing the vulnerabilities being dealt with by different cultures and areas. They suggest that it is naïve to enter an area assuming that the issue is the same as others. They argue that it is important to know the people, the culture and the problems before implementing a program in order to provide assistance. Many groups go to help, but assume generalizations as fact and set up information programs and funding programs to fix the ignorant and impoverished in order to combat those specific vulnerabilities. However, those may not actually be the issue (UNIAP, 2007). In Cornell University’s 2007 Disability Status Report, they show that the employment gap between individuals with and without disabilities is 42.8%, in the United States alone (Baker, 2008). This enormous gap in employment exacerbates the vulnerability of poverty that these individuals experience by denying them access to a self-sustaining life with gainful employment. Continued Monday, September 13th, 2010


Old Slavery v. Modern Day Slavery Part II Part of the Human Trafficking Students' series on HTP By Ashley Keller Old Slavery v. Modern Day SlaveryPart II It is commendable that human trafficking is getting more and more attention and global awareness is on the rise. But, the small amount of information regarding this marginalized group is simply not enough, especially when there are statistics that report there are approximately 340 million women with disabilities (Amon, 2010)! Even more stunning, not only is there a severe lack of information regarding human trafficking and disabilities worldwide, but there are entire United Nations and United States government reports, among others, that include hundreds of pages of statistics and personal accounts with no mention of this group of individuals. My nickname for them has become the forgotten people. That is precisely what they are, forgotten, omitted, passed over, left out. It is incredible that with all the disability acts, services and initiatives, in the United States and around the world, that they have been so easily forgotten! The Bureau of Justice Statistics completed a National Crime Victimization Survey in 2007. This survey included nonfatal violent and property crimes against individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities were victims of approximately “47,000 rapes, 79,000 robberies, 114,000 aggravated assaults, and 476,000 simple assaults”. It was also found that disabled persons had a “1.5 times higher rate for persons without disabilities” to be involved in a nonfatal violent incident. Not surprisingly, their survey also found that “females with a disability had a higher victimization rate than males with a disability”. On the other hand, among typical individuals, males had a higher victimization rate than females. In Joseph Amon’s article entitled Invisible Women he states that “at least 10 percent of the world’s population is believed to live with a disability…half - 340 million - are women”. Sadly the voices of these women are not heard because they do not fit neatly into one group. They are women, but they are disabled, so they are not included in any women’s movements and even though they are disabled they are not necessarily included in any disability movements because they are women. As previously discussed, the four major vulnerabilities of trafficking are poverty, ignorance, minority and being a female. According to Stop Violence Against Women, women make up 75% of the disabled population. This means that 75% of the disabled population has at least three out of the four major red flags that increase vulnerability to human trafficking. They are disabled which makes them a minority and often creates a lack of knowledge, and on top of that they are women. Because of the incorrect belief that sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS, many women and children in this category are victimized. This is due to another false belief that because these women are disabled, they are also virgins (stopvaw, 2009). UNICEF reports, that virtually 100% of disabled females in India are beaten, 25% are raped and 6% are forcibly sterilized. In South Africa battered women services are not accessible. Children suffer a high rate of victimization in this population as well due to the fact that “impairments often make children appear as ‘easy victims’”. This is not only because they may have difficulty in defending themselves or in reporting the abuse, but also because their accounts are often dismissed (UNICEF, 2008). Children in general, and children with disabilities in particular, are thought to have unreliable testimonies of situations that occur, including those involving exploitation and abuse. USAID reports on some facts that they received from UNICEF, and it has been reported that in Thailand prostitution houses seek deaf girls. Their thought process behind this is that not many people know sign language so these girls will not be able to communicate effectively in order to get help. This specific disability serves to isolate these individuals even more than a typically developing individual trafficked into an unknown country. They also report that the rate of child prostitutes with mild developmental disabilities is six times greater than what is expected within the general population. This marginalized group is underrepresented and does not have access to the tools they need to become empowered. Unfortunately, even organizations that make attempts to help fall short of being accessible to this population worldwide. Continued Tuesday September 14th, 2010.


Old Slavery v. Modern Day Slavery Part 3 Part of the Human Trafficking Students' series on HTP By Ashley Keller Old Slavery v. Modern Day SlaveryPart III (Conclusion) Take Action There are different national and international organizations for disabled persons. These organizations are made up of people with and without disabilities. While this is good news, sadly, this is new. Groups and organizations in the past have not thought to have disabled persons on their committees, which again leaves this population without a voice. These new integrated and accessible groups and organizations are using their insight to help implement accessible programs, or change existing programs in order to make them accessible. They are doing this by diversifying environments, i.e. taking a multicultural, multi-gender, multi-ability approach to problems and ideas. There is also a greater urgency to educate and train the general public. This allows people to better understand and appreciate this population of people. It is very important for everyone to know that whether someone is disabled or not, they are all still people and they most definitely have value. They deserve the same human rights as those without disabilities.Unfortunately there is not much information out there on human trafficking and the disabled. Awareness is required in regards to human trafficking, but when this entire population is overlooked and left without a voice; people are not getting the whole story. This population needs to be brought up in conversations, classrooms, websites and statistics. As Human Rights Watch notes “disabled women and girls face the same spectrum of human rights abuses that non-disabled women face, but their social isolation and dependence magnifies these abuses and their consequences”. This is a real problem and these people need our help as much as the men, women and children who are drug into this dark reality by force, fraud or coercion. We need to give this population a voice, if possible, and if not, be the voice they so desperately need. The media can do this by reporting on this ugly truth through pictures, articles and documentaries. The media needs to make it known that this issue is alive and it is everywhere, not just in some far off country. While many countries have taken strides to criminalize human trafficking they continually fail to prosecute these perpetrators. Through research it was noted that most individuals detained in relation to human trafficking are released by the time a trial or sentencing arrives for “time served”. There needs to be collaboration and cooperation between many different government and non-government agencies in order to bring light to this seemingly overlooked topic within the larger picture of modern slavery. Law Enforcement, families, cultures, hospitals, education agencies, and prosecutors all need to understand the ramifications of their beliefs and actions, or lack thereof. By working together, which is a feat in and of itself, fewer and fewer individuals will fall through the cracks. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “to ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it”. We, as moral, rational and reasoning beings, cannot allow these people to be swept under the rug and forgotten any longer.

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