For a group of children with handicaps, growth and development are also affected by abuse or neglect. Our understanding of the problems of the abused, handicapped child emerges from experience with 37 children with cerebral palsy who have been maltreated, coupled with a review of the literature in related areas.
We identify the following four problems as crucial to the study of abuse and neglect to the child with handicaps: (1) abuse that causes handicaps, (2) abuse that occurs to the handicapped child, (3) compromises in care that can occur when the handicapped child becomes involved with the medical and legal systems, and (4) arrangements for foster care or other out-of-home placement for the child with handicaps.
We conclude that the very systems designed to protect and care for the child often fail, leaving the handicapped child without opportunity to reach developmental potential. In light of our observations, we recommend that the pediatrician not only be aware of the existence of abuse and neglect in the population of handicapped children, but also serve in the dual role of coordinator of services and advocate for these children.