Abuse (Physical & Sexual)

Both male and female adolescents with Down syndrome are at higher risk for physical and sexual abuse than their non-disabled peers. Nurses working with this population should be well-versed in the warning signs of abuse, including sudden mood swings, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, fear of certain people or places, talking about a new older or secret friend, and regressive behaviors. When abuse is suspected, it’s imperative to follow state regulations that govern abuse reporting.

Teaching and counseling, tailored to the individual’s cognitive level, can be highly effective in averting abuse. Adolescents with Down syndrome need to be knowledgeable about personal body safety and strategies to differentiate "good touch" from "bad touch". They need help identifying adults who may have access to private body parts or functions (e.g. health care providers) and those who should keep their distance. Clear communication and assertiveness training at the teen’s cognitive level can also be very beneficial.

Because teens with Down syndrome are usually in protected environments, they seldom experience abuse.