How To Fill a Hole In Your School's Safety Plan for Your Child With (or Without) Disabilities


With all the recent shootings, how to keep our children safer is frequently a topic of conversation. If we could, as mothers we’d wrap our kids in a bubble. Unfortunately, for moms everywhere, that really isn’t an option.

I want to talk about a hole I discovered in a lot of school’s safety plans.

When I was a child, I remember the fire drills and earthquake drills we practiced faithfully throughout the year. We never had cause to have need of the skills we used in the drills in real scenarios, but we were prepared. We knew where to meet outside the school for a fire and that under our desks was the best place for an earthquake.

A couple of years ago while living in Alaska, my children had need of their earthquake drill training when an earthquake hit during their school day. It was fairly minor, but it did cause a little damage to the school. Earthquakes are a common occurrence there. I’m grateful my children had this experience because it showed me some holes in the planning for these situations, both for kids with disabilities and those without.

We usually conduct these drills with the idea in mind that our children will be in their classroom when disaster strikes. However, if you enter a school on any given day, at any given time, you will find children everywhere in the building. What do our children do if they are in the hallway? The bathroom? In music class?

During the earthquake, one of my children was in the music room. There are no desks in the music room. Kids had no idea what to do because they couldn’t hide under desks, and this caused a lot of anxiety for them.

My other child was in the bathroom. He has autism and other disabilities. Many kids with disabilities do not have a typical schedule and may not be in the regular classroom when something happens. The child could be in the Special Ed room, in Speech, therapy or other places within the school. They may be in a hallway transitioning between these places.

Does your child know what to do if they aren’t in class and a fire, earthquake or someone intent on harming them is in the school?

Whether they have disabilities or not, I’m betting you are going to find out the answer is no. Add to that having a disability and the picture gets grimmer. Schools need to figure out what that alternative plan is, and all of our children need to be taught  what that plan is.

Maybe your child with a disability is routine driven, and that child’s routine is broken due to the drill or a real-life event. Imagine they need to be as quiet as they can due to an active shooter, but that goes against everything their body is telling them to do. (Suggestion: keep lollipops in the classroom just in case, this might help kids with or without disabilities.)

Develop a plan for all students to know what to do should the drill or a real event happens when they aren’t in class. Are you in the hallway? Duck into the nearest classroom. Active shooter and you are in the bathroom? Climb up on top of the toilet and be as quiet as can be, then they will be less likely to know you are there.

Many schools are now having kids bring in disaster kits in case they were to get stuck inside the school for an extended period of time or overnight. Some basic easy to eat food, a letter from a loved one, a flashlight; depending on your child, a change of clothes or medication would also be in order just in case something should happen.

These are just some suggestions off the top of my head. We want our kids to stay safe in every situation. Bring these holes in your school safety plan up at your next IEP or PTA meeting and ask your school officials to help find solutions to these areas that are often overlooked. Together we can make a school safer.

This story originally appeared on An Ordinary Mom.

Getty image by bodnarchuk


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

How a Kiss From My Son Broke a Common Autism Myth for Me

As parents of kids with disabilities, certain challenges become so routine they might not seem like challenges anymore until you see a neurotypical child with their parent. After our usual challenges with morning routine, what made one particular day frustrating was the constant calling of places to figure out a place to send my son [...]
Photograph of a woman combined with hand drawn ink.

My Autism Is Valid

I have a very unique perspective in the autism world. My autism is invisible. For the most part, I could walk into any place and you wouldn’t know I had autism unless I chose to disclose it. When I am with my colleagues with disabilities, I am often mistaken for their aides. I still have [...]
Woman looking at her reflection, deep in thought.

Why It's Difficult to Trust People as an Autistic Woman

In a society which can be dominated by self-righteous and inconsiderate people who tend to put their feelings before others, it is very challenging to find individuals who care enough to follow through. Compared to most people, I consider myself to be more trustworthy and respectful than those who only choose to care when it [...]
Little boy sitting in front of peg toy trying to hold mallet.

My Heart, My Son's Autism and What's Really Important

In 2012, I had a heart attack — out of nowhere — at the age of 35. When I was finally wheeled into the hospital, I learned I would need to have a quintuple bypass that night. It all happened very quickly, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever step back into my home [...]