The disability royal commission has heard some harrowing stories so far, but there are fears that it is too rushed to be effective.

The three-year $527 million royal commission began in Townsville last week.

Commission chair Ronald Sackville appeared to respond to claims that people with disabilities have not been given enough time and support to engage with the commission as he officially opened the hearings.

“Unfortunately there are one or two commentators whose contributions often appear calculated to discourage people from telling their stories to the commission and to increase their levels of anxiety,” he said.

In its first few days, commissioners heard harrowing stories from parents of students with disabilities, and from experts and teachers.

The Queensland mother of a 13-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome spokes about how her daughter became “petrified” of her teacher, who regularly yelled at the child, forced her to sit on a bathmat, and once dragged her down a flight of stairs.

Another submission related to a 10-year-old girl with Asperger syndrome who was hit over the head and pushed from a pier by bullies at school, causing her to begin hiding in a garbage bin.

The first week will not hear from any witnesses with disabilities.

Green Senator Jordan Steele-John said: “I’ve just had a long conversation with a man who would desperately like to give his evidence to the commission but cannot do so yet because there isn’t a pathway to make confidential submissions to the inquiry presently.”

The royal commission will convene again next month in Melbourne for public hearings into group homes.