PDD – How to stay safe

How to prevent, report and respond to suspected abuse of anyone supported by the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.


The Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program has an Abuse Prevention and Response Protocol. It helps make sure you are safe while you are receiving PDD services.

Everyone on your support team must follow this protocol including your family members, PDD worker, service providers and staff if you have Family Managed Services. The protocol talks about how to:

  • tell if abuse is happening
  • prevent abuse
  • report suspected abuse
  • stop abuse when it is reported

Recognize abuse

People with developmental disabilities are often at greater risk of being abused or taken advantage of by others. Abuse occurs when another person does something that could harm you or does harm you. The protocol identifies 6 types of abuse and the warning signs it may be happening.

Know the types

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when there is injury to any part of your body. The injury might leave bruises and marks that can be seen, but can also include internal injuries that are hard to spot. Physical abuse can happen only once or many times. It may include:

  • hitting, punching, choking and kicking
  • biting, scratching and pulling hair
  • throwing or hitting someone with things
  • violent shaking

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when you experience unwanted sexual contact, activity or behaviour. This means you are not okay with what is happening and you may have said ‘no’ or ‘stop’. These situations may include:

  • hearing words or seeing gestures that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe
  • forcing you to be kissed or touched in a sexual way without your consent
  • forcing you to have sex without your consent
  • posting pictures of you when you are not wearing all of your clothes


Neglect or negligence is when you are not receiving the daily care and support you need. This may include someone not providing you with:

  • food
  • clothing
  • shelter
  • medical care
  • protection from harm
  • support or supervision that meet your needs

Emotional abuse

This type of abuse causes you to experience sadness, fear, anger and other difficult emotions. Sometimes you may feel stress from the way you feel because of how someone is treating you. This stress can make you act differently, have problems thinking and/or make you feel sick. Emotional abuse can happen when your support people:

  • reject or ignore you by not paying attention to you on purpose
  • criticize or insult you by calling you names or saying mean things about you
  • threaten or harass you by saying or doing things that make you feel unsafe or frightened
  • embarrass or put you down in front of other people
  • intimidate or terrorize you by using their power to make you afraid of them


Exploitation is when someone takes advantage of you. Examples include:

  • taking your money or things you own
  • talking you into doing things that are against the law
  • pressuring you to do things that do not help you
  • making you do work you do not get paid for

Using restrictive procedures

A restrictive procedure is when someone does something that limits your movement, behaviour or access to people, possessions or events. Good restrictive procedures:

  • can help keep you safe
  • are planned ahead and approved by you, your legal guardian, and your family and support team
  • are only used when other ideas and services are not keeping you safe

A restrictive procedure may be abuse when:

  • there are other ways to deal with your safety and/or
  • you or your support team have not given permission for it

Know the warning signs

People who are being abused may show these warning signs:

Physical abuse

When there is physical abuse a person may:

  • have unexplained or unusual injuries
  • start to suddenly fear physical contact
  • not want to talk about their injuries
  • start having trouble sleeping

Sexual abuse

When there is sexual abuse a person may:

  • have pain or injury in their genital areas
  • find it difficult to walk or sit
  • start acting differently such as sometimes behaving like a child
  • begin to suddenly act in sexual ways


When there is neglect a person may:

  • have health concerns that are ignored or untreated
  • lose weight without a medical reason
  • be tired all the time or fall asleep often during the day
  • fall or injure themselves often
  • have minor accidents that continue to happen

Emotional abuse

When there is emotional abuse a person may:

  • suddenly have trouble talking
  • be more afraid, sad or angry
  • start acting in unusual ways
  • apologize constantly
  • have nightmares or problems sleeping


When there is exploitation a person may:

  • have money or possessions taken without their permission
  • do something they do not want to do because someone convinced them it was okay
  • do work they are not paid for and do not want to do

Using restrictive procedures improperly

When restrictive procedures are used improperly a person may:

  • not be allowed to use their wheelchair, walker or other mobility devices
  • have their personal possessions kept from them
  • not be allowed to phone the people they want to
  • be given medications outside an approved plan
  • not be allowed to go places they want to, when they want to
  • be stopped from taking part in their chosen spiritual activities

Focus on prevention

The PDD program tries to help you live as independently as possible in your community. The more you are involved with your community, the less abuse happens. The Abuse Prevention and Response Protocol talks about ideas to reduce abuse.

Everyone on your support team is responsible for understanding and using these ideas. Some examples include:

  • telling you about your strengths and abilities
  • understanding and respecting your vision, goals and needs
  • making sure your PDD supports are working well for you
  • helping you participate in your community and build connections with others
  • helping you feel like you are accepted and you belong
  • making sure you understand what abuse is and what your rights are
  • making sure your support team knows about the protocol
  • giving your support team opportunities to talk about abuse and learn and plan together
  • working with your support team to manage workloads, caregiver challenges or personal issues that may affect their behaviours

Report suspected abuse

Suspected abuse must be reported. You or someone on your support team can call:

  • the police at 911 if you are in immediate danger
  • your PDD worker
  • the Alberta provincial abuse helpline at 1-855-4HELPAB (1-855-443-5722) for assistance in more than 100 languages from 7:30 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday
  • the Protection for Persons in Care reporting line at 1-888-357-9339 if you are receiving care or support services from public funded service providers such as:
    • hospitals
    • seniors’ lodges
    • nursing homes
    • mental health facilities
    • group homes
    • addictions treatment centres
    • shelters
    • other supportive living settings

Family Managed Services Administrators and agencies must inform the PDD program about suspected abuse by filing 2 or more reporting forms.

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Use the Abuse Prevention and Response Protocol Report Forms to file:

  • a preliminary report within one working day of becoming aware of the suspected abuse
  • a final report within 30 days after the preliminary report is submitted, or
  • an interim report every 30 days until the final report is submitted

Complete a review

The Alberta provincial abuse helpline and the Protection for Persons in Care reporting line work with the PDD program to make sure abuse is stopped. After your PDD worker gets the information about the suspected abuse, they will contact you and/or your family to make sure you are safe. They also contact everyone who is providing your PDD services to make sure you have access to support to help keep you safe. Everyone will work together to review the situation.

All reported abuse is reviewed to:

  • decide if abuse actually occurred
  • take actions to prevent and/or stop the abuse

There are 2 types of reviews:

Internal review

An internal review is started by your service provider, Family Managed Services Administrator or PDD worker. It can happen 3 ways:

  • one of them leads the review on their own
  • one or all of them ask the PDD program to help with the review
  • either your service provider or PDD worker hires someone from another organization to help with the review

External review

An external review is completed by the PDD program. Anyone who is providing your PDD services or involved in your planning must help provide information for the review.

Discuss the final report

After the internal or external review is completed, there is a final report that:

  • talks about how the review happened
  • says if and why the reviewers think the abuse did or did not happen, or that it was not possible to know whether it happened
  • gives recommendations and actions to stop the abuse

Your PDD worker meets with you and your support team to discuss the report and how to make sure the ideas to stop the abuse are put in place.