Nothing is more important than ensuring your child with special needs is safe. When your child faces disabilities of any kind, as a parent, family member, or friend, it is incumbent on you to make sure he or she is as safe as possible. While within the home environment most things facing your child can be managed, this is not necessarily the case outside the home.
When your child is outside the home for any reason, it is only natural to be concerned that something could happen to him or her. Most parents of special needs kids want to control as much as they can outside the home environment to ensure their children will be safe. Whether your child is going to school, a sports activity, extended care setting, or even a play date with a friend, you may be concerned about what steps or precautions need to be taken to ensure he or she has both an enjoyable experience and a safe one.
This issue is further complicated as we see a continuous stream of news stories from across the nation where children with disabilities are abused by caregivers, teachers, and even loved ones. Unfortunately, research tells us that a number of abuse and negligence crimes like these originate with someone who is in a position of trust. This can be a caregiver, teacher, friends, or even a family member. While you should not have to be concerned over the safety of your child outside the home when in the care of a trained individual, there are circumstances that suggest this may no longer be a certainty.
Knowing that this threat is a very real possibility, what steps should you take to ensure your disabled child is safe in all circumstances?
You can begin by candidly assessing how much of an advocate your child can be for him or herself. Different disabilities impact our children in different ways. While one child may be able to vocally advocate for him or herself in a stressful situation, another child may be nonverbal or unable to speak up for him or herself. By contrast, one child may be able to physically escape potential danger while another might be confined to a wheelchair. Having an understanding of where your child is coming from in your assessment can be the right place to start.
Evaluate where your child is going outside the home. Research the activity, school, care center, or play area he or she be a part of. What do reviews say about it? What does the school, center, or facility look like? Are there government standards required and are they successfully met? What do other parents, friends, or even medical professionals have to say about it? Do your research and make your own decision about whether or not this will be a safe place for your child.
Next, get involved with wherever your child will be going. Your presence makes a difference. Meet the teachers or care providers. Learn the layout of the areas your child will be acting within. Ask about crisis and lockdown protocols. Once your child is enrolled, frequently stop by unannounced in addition to participating in regularly scheduled times.
Above all else, pay attention. To the extent you can, always talk to your child about what is going on. Be observant and be proactive. If you have questions on how to ensure your child is protected, do not wait to let us know. If you are concerned about an incident that may have taken place, time is of the essence and do not wait to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our experienced, local attorneys.