Understanding neurodiversity and child exploitation

Increasingly we are seeing in our support service for parents affected by child exploitation that there is a high proportion of neurodiversity amongst children in all forms of abuse – sexual, criminal and online exploitation.

According to the IWF, children with speech and or learning difficulties are three times more likely to have been manipulated into sharing a nude photograph of themselves.

We hosted an online parent support group this year and over 75% of the affected children were neurodiverse.

It has been widely acknowledged that current child exploitation assessments are flawed due to gender, racial, heteronormative and Eurocentric biases. Neurodivergent children are equally affected by assessment biases, often resulting in inadequate support being provided. Many professionals have stated they have had little to no training on recognising and responding to potential exploitation in neurodivergent children. To effectively safeguard a child, we have to understand the risk they are experiencing and provide support to reflect this, including the use of bespoke resources that are inclusive of all children and young people.

An affected parent recently talked to us about the huge challenge her family faced in trying to get support for her son with a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD and learning disabilities. Child exploitation is a complex form of abuse in which victims and families can often face challenges accessing the support they need. When the child has additional needs, these challenges can be amplified further. To recognise how the signs of exploitation might present in neurodivergent children, what additional barriers to disclosure exist and how to create a safeguarding plan that takes these additional needs into consideration.

“Once adaptations due to his needs were put in place, he was able to engage with the child exploitation work. Training for professionals needs to go beyond the typical safeguarding model” Affected parent

This is why we have teamed up with neurodiversity and behavioural expert to create our new training course about Neurodiversity and Child Exploitation.

By exploring real case studies, learn how you can adapt your practice to meet the complex safeguarding needs of neurodiverse children at risk of exploitation.

Have a look at our upcoming course dates in 2023.

Louisa McCallion, Head of Communications and Marketing