DALLAS TWP. – The more Misericordia University speech-language pathology professor Hunter Manasco interacted with special-needs children and those who provided care for them, the more he heard concerns about their well-being and a high levels of abuse.
"The potential for these young people to be abused was at the forefront of everyone's minds," Manasco said.
Yet there were no books that he could find that could serve as a how-to educate guide for not only the caregivers of the mentally or physically handicapped children, but for the children themselves.
So he wrote one.
"An Exceptional Children's Guide to Touch: Teaching Social and Physical Boundaries to Kids" is being published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in London and is slated to hit the market in July.
In a sad way, the timing couldn't be better for Manasco.
With the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse allegations attracting widespread media interest, child abuse is at the forefront of many people's minds as the details of the case continue to be made public. The retired Penn State defensive coordinator is accused of molesting at least 10 boys through a charity he founded called The Second Mile.
"It's unfortunate that you have this situation, but if you can use it to educate people and reduce the risk of this happening again, then it's fortunate," Manasco, of Dallas Township, said.
He said the publisher, sensing the connection to the Sandusky case and the relevance of the book, has pushed the publication date up three to four months.
"They're moving fast on this," Manasco said, noting that the book was written five years ago but sat on a shelf waiting for his wife, Katharine, to illustrate the part of the book geared toward children.
The 80-page paperback book has two sections.
One, the shorter of the two, is geared toward adults, parents, teachers, counselors and other caregivers. The second, composed of nearly 60 illustrated pages, is geared for adults to read to children as an educational tool.
Manasco said studies have found that abuse among children with disabilities is exponentially higher than among regular peers, about three or four times the rate.
And if the child has autism, the rates are seven times higher than a non-special-needs child, he said.
Mostly, Manasco said, the abuse is prevalent because they don't know what is and isn't appropriate or what to do if they do know.
"They're basically just sitting ducks," Manasco said.
"They are possibly the most vulnerable children outside of infants," said the professor, who has written one prior book on behavior modification techniques for children with autism and other neurological disorders who display aggression and tantrum behavior.
Sandusky's trial is tentatively scheduled to start in May ,and it's not clear if any of the alleged victims were mentally or physically handicapped.
Manasco said the book, though geared toward children with developmental disabilities, can still be used as a resource for all youth who may not understand "what kind of touching is right or wrong, what kind of interaction is appropriate or inappropriate."