Disabled children especially vulnerable to abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The death of a four-year-old Saint Joseph, Mo., girl shows a major danger facing a vulnerable population.

Amber Mosier had cerebral palsy. She was found dead after her mother stopped giving her medication, then left her alone for more than 20 hours with her feeding tube connected in October.

Her mother, 21-year-old Alexandria Schurr, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for her death.

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Research from several national organizations shows disabled children are especially prone to abuse, which often comes from a family member. But there's help available before abuse becomes stress.

"I can understand that the parents might be feeling challenged, but I can't imagine leaving my child alone," said LuAnne Hurst, occupational therapist at Children's Therapeutic Learning Center.

She said those with disabled children face more challenges than the average parent. Feeding, communicating and even moving them is often difficult. Hurst said parents often find they need help themselves.

"Sometimes the challenges are finding the right people to be able to help you and who is able to care for your child," she said.

Hurst advises that parents in need of help first contact their pediatrician.

Missouri and Kansas both have programs for new parents of disabled children. In Missouri, parents can call Missouri First Steps at 866-583-2392. Kansas parents can contact Infant Toddler Services by calling 800-332-6262.

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