The events in Chicago last week were certainly horrific. Although safety is an important lesson for all parents, persons with disabilities have added challenges – such as situational awareness and recognizing social cues and/or danger; sensory issues; and communication – that can make them more vulnerable if they are not prepared. I’m only hoping that what happened in Chicago can serve as a wake-up call that to all that we must respect and be sensitive to children and adults with disabilities.
As a parent, you are the best person to teach your child about safety. Safety skills must be taught, practiced, and reinforced frequently. Ryan was not yet three when I realized the potential impact of his impulsivity. Thus began my emphasis with him on safety skills; in his case, “Stick like glue with Mom” (a phrase I still use!) and “Don’t go up to strangers.” These lessons will change with the age/maturity level of your child. As Ryan became older and could independently go to a vending machine or restroom, this phrase changed to “Come right back and be sure not to talk to strangers!”
Ryan and I frequently role-play in a variety of situations, both at ho
me and while we are out in the community. By changing where and when we discuss this, my hope is that Ryan thoroughly understands the importance of safety at all times and in all places. .” Other safety concepts I stress to him are to always stick with a buddy when he is out and to always remember that it is OK to say “No!”
Regardless of the specific lesson, the key is to “think safety” at all times, not only for you as the parent, but also to help your child to start thinking this way as well.
As your child approaches adolescence, the increased importance of social life, interpersonal relationships and the desire for independence presents a unique set of challenges and concerns. It’s important your child be prepared for situations where a parent may not always be present.
For children who are able to be independent, teaching them about proper use of money, cell phones, and public transportation can help them to navigate their world. Setting boundaries for where your child is allowed to go, establishing curfews, and making sure your child is not alone are also helpful guidelines.
Although we would hope that it will never be used, both you and your child should have a plan for an emergency. This can be as simple as calling 911 and giving the critical information.
There are a number of resources available – I’ve shared a few that I found most helpful below. The safety of all of our children is a conversation we need to have on an on-going basis. I welcome any tips and resources you may have to share!