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Child abuse prevention education program expands to include students with disabilities

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Bivona Child Advocacy Center

A Rochester nonprofit is expanding and modifying an existing child abuse prevention education program to include students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Public schools in New York state are already required under Erin's Law to provide age-appropriate prevention education to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Since 2018, Bivona Child Advocacy Center has provided a school-based program for K-12 students in Monroe County. The MBF Child Safety program teaches students how to recognize, prevent, and respond to a wide range of abusive behaviors ranging from cyberbullying to physical and sexual abuse.

But the center's CEO, Daniele Lyman-Torres, said the needs of children with disabilities, who are more than three times as likely to be sexually abused as their peers who don't have disabilities, were not being met.

"Conversations have not been had to really empower and support children with differing abilities to be able to respond, prevent, and recognize what abuse is," she said. "You know, it's often overlooked."

In a partnership with the Florida-based Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Bivona developed a modified curriculum for students with disabilities. Lyman-Torres said the changes include streamlined visuals and tactile activities that are designed to better connect with students with various intellectual and physical disabilities.

A pilot program was conducted in six Monroe County schools.

The full adapted curriculum will be available for local schools and community-based organizations that serve children starting in the fall of 2025.

"We encourage these groups to reach out to our community education team for this program to be delivered to not only the children, but also the adults," Lyman-Torres said.

Bivona Child Advocacy Center also offers "train the trainer" classes in an effort to expand the number of adults who can deliver the prevention education within their communities.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.