Safety matters most in caring for people with special needs, those with special needs require greater attention to safety . Parents, friends, family and all caregivers need to take precautions to help prevent injuries to children.
1. Integrate the Teaching of Personal Safety Skills Along with Other Skills in Your Day-to-Day Life.
-We believe that this is important for people regardless of their ability. Children with special needs vary greatly in their capabilities and some of what they can do changes over time. Some young people can understand a great deal of abstract information, especially with the use of illustrations and stories, but need very structured practice in exactly how to keep themselves safe in specific situations. Rehearsal of skills through role-plays will help most children to remember far better than just being shown or told what to do.
2. Make a Safety Plan for how to Get Help Everywhere You Go and Review that Plan Until You Are Sure that Everyone Understands.
-Making a Safety Plan for how to get help when you have problems is a useful personal safety practice for all your family members. Make a list of everywhere your child might go. Make a list of possible problems. Now, make a plan for how this child might get help – or have someone else get help – in this specific place with this specific problem. The most important safety plan for children is to Check First with their adults if they can anytime things change. Since “things changing” is an abstract concept, you have to teach children this skill using specific examples. Check First if they see a dog, a squirrel, or a person they don’t know well. Check First if they see matches, broken glass, a spider, or smoke. Check First before they open the door, go outside, lean out the window, or go somewhere, even with people they know.
3. Teach Children to Speak Up for Themselves if they Can and Teach Everyone who Comes in Contact with Vulnerable Children how to Be their Advocates.
-For adults, being an advocate means knowing how to keep their children safe and how to protect them from harm as much as possible. For another child in the family, being an advocate for a child with special needs means speaking up and getting adult help if there is a problem. For the child with special needs, advocacy means having ways to the best of her or his ability to communicate when something is hurtful or upsetting. A fundamental Kidpower rule is that “problems should not have to be secrets.” It doesn’t solve problems to wish that they weren’t happening, to be silent and hope that they will go away, to pretend that there is no problem, or to worry.
4. Be Realistic if Your Child is Likely to Wander Off and Does not Have the Ability to Follow a Safety Plan or Communicate with Others.
-Prepare everyone around this child to provide constant supervision. Part of your safety plan is to prevent a child who does not know better from wandering off, just as you would with a toddler. If you do get separated, the safety of the child is more important than not standing out. A realistic plan might require that your child has to stand out in some way in order to be able to get help. Have a card or other means of explaining what the problem is, including contact information with the child at all times – around the neck, attached to a shirt, a bracelet, etc. If a child rejects one means of having a card, try another or find a way to overcome the initial rejection, just as you have helped your child to change other behaviors.
5. Protect Your Family’s Emotional Safety from the Thoughtless Unkind Things that Others Sometimes Say and Do.
-Know how to handle the respectful concern of another adult by being clear about what you want and don’t want without getting triggered. Be prepared to set boundaries firmly and respectfully if someone is disrespectful in public, as long as you are in a safe place.
6. Take Responsibility for the Ways in Which Your Child Might Cross the Boundaries of Others.
-Children sometimes cross boundaries of others whether they have special needs or not and their adults need to take charge of their behavior. If you have a child who is likely to run up and hug strangers in the park or store, be prepared to stop that child and to practice waving instead of touching. If you have a child who is likely to throw a tantrum in a restaurant, pick your restaurant with this in mind and have a plan for leaving quickly if need be. If you have a child who is likely to rock loudly on the seats in a movie theater, check to be sure that the seat doesn’t rock, sit at the edge of the row instead of in the middle of it so that you can leave easily if necessary, or provide some less disruptive way for your child to move.