Summer holidays are full of opportunities for children to become separated from their families. Busy airports, crowded amusement parks and large family gatherings create perfect circumstances for a child to get lost. Being separated from your child in a busy place is a nightmare. If your child has special needs, the nightmare gets even worse. Summer is the perfect time to teach to your special needs children tips to avoid getting lost and what to do if they become separated from you.
Many children with special needs have poor communication and social skills that make finding them difficult. Therefore, it is important to prepare your children for an unplanned separation. Many experts suggest that you start teaching your children before they start school. Your goal is to get your children to remember as much information about their family and where they live so they can help police find you. Here are some tips to help you get started.
- At as early an age as possible, teach your children their full names, addresses and telephone numbers. Teach them as much as is appropriate for their age and skills.
- If they cannot remember their whole address and phone number, try starting with the name of the city or town you live in.
- When you are driving or walking around with them, point out landmarks near your home such as shopping centres, banks, schools, parks, etc.
- Take out a physical map or use an online map and point out where you live. Show children how this location relates to your state or county. Tell your special needs children interesting facts about where your live. For example, County Cork is known as the rebel county or Florida is the sunshine state.
- Teach children your real names – not just mom or dad.
- Tell your child what you want them to do if they become separated from you. There are many articles on the internet about this topic including on the websites of Parents’ magazine, Netmums and KidPower. Make a plan that suits your family and teach it to your kids.
- Depending on your children’s needs, you may wish to consider a tracking device. You can read more about these devices on Friendship Circle.
- There also lots of ID cards and devices that special needs children wear or carry including bracelets, dog tags, Velcro shoe bands, temporary tattoos and free make your own ID cards.
- Make sure your children know how to make calls on both landline and mobile phones.
- Teach your children the emergency phone number for your area.
- Social stories are another tool parents can use to teach their children about safety. Parents can write their own social stories or buy books or apps with social stories.
- Review this information with your special needs children on a regular basis.
You want to prepare your children, but not scare them. Try to teach them in a fun way. For example, make flashcards with pictures of you, your child, your home, your street, etc. Show a card to your child and ask her to tell you what she knows about the picture. Reward her for correct answers.
Hopefully, your child will never need this information, but if they do you know you prepared them as much as you could.