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Unusual Behavior, Bruises May Be Signs of Child Abuse

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It is often difficult to identify cases of suspected child abuse and neglect, child-advocacy officials agree. To help teachers and others make identifications, Brian G. Fraser, in The Educator and Child Abuse, published by the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, lists signs teachers should look for.

A child who exhibits only one of the signs may not necessarily be a victim of abuse, Mr. Fraser points out. But if a number of the indicators are present, he writes, a teacher would be wise, when in doubt, "to resolve the doubt in favor of the child and report."

Child abuse should be suspected if a student:

Is habitually away from school and constantly late, or arrives at school very early and leaves very late because he or she does not want to go home;

Is compliant, shy, withdrawn, passive, and uncommunicative--signs of having internalized the problem of dealing with adults;

Is nervous, hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive, or destructive--signs of acting out the "hurt" to get attention;

Has an unexplained injury--a patch of hair missing, a burn, a limp, or bruises--or has an inordinate amount of "explained" injuries, such as bruises on arms and legs over a period of time;

Exhibits an injury that is not adequately explained;

Complains about numerous beatings;

Goes to the bathroom with difficulty;

Complains about mother's boyfriend "doing things" when the mother is not at home;

Is inadequately dressed for inclement weather;

Wears a long-sleeved blouse or shirt during summer months to cover bruises on the arms;

Has clothing that is soiled, tattered, or too small;

Is dirty and smells or has bad teeth, hair falling out, or lice;

Is thin, emaciated, and constantly tired; shows evidence of malnutrition and dehydration;

Is unusually fearful of other children and adults; or

Has been given inappropriate food, drink, or drugs.

To obtain a copy of the booklet, which costs $3, or to receive a free information package, write the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, P.O. Box 2866, Chicago, Ill. 60690.--ab

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