omara10 asks:

How can we keep our children safe?

Some ways of protecting our children seem obvious, like wearing a bike helmet or seat belt, but with sexual abuse, the path to protection isn't always so clear.
However, as parents there are several things you can do to help protect your children
In Topics: Special education
> 60 days ago



Aug 5, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Hello Omara10,

Thank you for writing about this very important topic of keeping special needs children safe.  Unfortunately, as a school psychologist I have been witness to the aftermath of when children have fallen prey to sex offenders.  It is heartbreaking.

Here is what I have learned from my years of experience regarding this subject.  (This is the short list)

1.  Most special needs children are teachable when it comes to safety issues.  If they cannot communicate because of being non-verbal or are speech and language limited then give them a form of communication such as sign language, picture stories, drawing to be able to let adults know of their concerns or need for safety.

2.  Teach special needs children concretely by using role playing, examples, real life situations, social stories.  Teach them again and again the same concepts. They may need repeated examples and usage of strategies.  With children with Autism, cognitive impairments,  Down Syndrome, etc. make sure that you use social stories.  Have them problem solve by talking through situations.  Take them in public and show them how to stay near their trusted adult.  Gently correct them when they try and wander or talk to strangers and then follow-up with the right responses or methods for interaction.

3. Talk to children often.  Do not ignore the special needs child.  It is very upsetting to hear how many deaf children dread going home from their deaf schools/mainstreamed schools because their parents cannot use sign language thus they are void of basic communication with a parent(s). This does not enable a child to be able to relay any fears or learn from their parents what they need to know about personal safety.  Often, the school ends up being the sole source for information.  Luckily, more and more parents are learning to use sign language, however there are still many that do not.

4.  Teach children to use the phone and call 911 in an emergency.  Sure this is not always an option, but many special children are capable of handling a phone, especially if one has the numbers keyed in already or a special logo to help the child know which button to press in an emergency.

5.  Consider the use of temporary tattoos or ID bracelets when a child is out in public in case they are separated from their trusted adult.  Also, carry a photo of your child every time you leave the house.  If you and your child are separated it would helpful to have a photo to show law enforcement right away. A resource for temporary tattoos is below.

Thank you again for this question.

Louise Masin Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Owner of Signing Families
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Additional Answers (1)

dgraab , Parent writes:
Hi Omara10,

As you've correctly pointed out, there are many considerations for keeping a child safe (and nothing that is more important to a parent, frankly). offers an extensive resource center on this subject that you may find informative and helpful:

It includes articles on: toy safety; first aid and safety in the home; safety outside of the home; car safety; safety on wheels; disaster preparedness; seasonal safety and more (including articles on cyber safety and protecting children from sexual abuse). Tips (or things parents can do) are included in the articles as well.  

I'm also including below a link to a special edition did on bullying (another 'safety' topic parents and schools need to carefully consider and respond to accordingly).  

Lastly, if you have a specific safety situation for which you need information or advice, please add to your question (click on the "Add to my question" link under your question on this page). Thanks!

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