Children's Advocacy Centers of North Dakota
200 E. Main Street #301 * Bismarck, ND 58501
701-323-5626 *
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Considerations When Interviewing Children with Disabilities 

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Disability types

Position yourself directly across from the child

Eases direct view of the interviewer, enhances ability to lip read, and read body language

Lip reading is only 30% effective, requires many skills

All children

Position yourself at child’s level


Sets up equality in the relationship


May be awkward seating for interviewer

All children

Leave adequate space between you and the child


Offers sense of safety in your presence


Ask parent about personal space preferences


Autism; ADD/ADHD, Deaf, hard of hearing; Vision impaired

Allow the child to establish eye contact with you. Do not force eye contact


Child feels more at ease when eye contact is not demanded

Eye contact is not pleasant or possible with some children

Children from some cultures unlike ours; Children with disabilities with sensory issues, such as autism, Deaf and hard of hearing

Use natural or lamp lighting


Reduces or eliminates distress from lighting


Lighting can be distressing or painful, fluorescent lights in particular; Inadequate lighting difficult for those with vision and hearing disabilities

Autism; those with vision problems and light sensitivities, Deaf and hard of hearing

Sit away from a window or light source


Child can see you well


Light may cause child to be unable to see you well

Deaf and hard of hearing children; children who are blind or have vision disabilities; children with autism

Let the child select where to sit, then you accommodate

Allows child initial sense of respect from the responder

May be difficult for child as they are always told, not asked, what to do

Child with mental retardation, ADD/ADHD

Avoid touching in most cases

Less touching is less risk of inadvertently distressing the child

The touch could be similar to the suspect’s contact, child may be touch toxic

Most children with Autism

Respond kindly but not enthusiastically to a child’s hug

This honors the child’s training, but doesn’t feed into it

Hugging children not known to you increases their vulnerability overall. Be aware, child may have been trained to have affectionate behavior with anyone

Children with Down’s Syndrome, other children with mental retardation



Baladerian, N.J., Heisler, C., & Hertica, M. (n.d.) Child abuse victims with disabilities: A curriculum for law  enforcement first responders and child protective services frontline workers-participant manual.California: Child abuse and neglect disability outreach program of arc riverside. Retrieved from