Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Minimizing Risk of Unintentional Injury For Children with Disabilities- Part Two

July 16, 2013

In my blog post last week, I discussed why children with developmental disabilities might be at particular risk for unintentional injuries. Today, I’ll share some strategies to help prevent injury.

While  “passive interventions,” or interventions that don’t require any action from the child or parent (e.g., guard rails, air bags) are generally the most effective, I also spend time discussing “active interventions” (e.g., car seats, helmets) with my patients and their families.  Developmental pediatricians or psychologists can help to consult with other behavioral strategies.

As much as is possible, parents should be counseled on their child’s condition-specific risk. For instance, it would be helpful to remind parents of teens with ADHD to remember to take their medications when they are learning to drive.  There may also be medical interventions to help decrease risk- for instance, physical therapy or calcium supplementation for children at risk for osteopenia (or bone disease) and fractures.

Here are some additional tips for summer safety:

 Fire Safety

  • Ensure that the environment is well equipped to decrease the risk of fire injury. The house or residence should include a working smoke alarm, a working telephone in an easily accessible location, and a fire extinguisher.
  • Plan and practice an escape route.
  • I advise parents to notify their fire department before an emergency occurs to keep information about their child with special needs on file.

 Water Safety

  • Children with disabilities should be closely supervised (within arm’s reach) around bathtubs, pools, and any other bodies of water.
  • Adaptive lifejackets may meet the needs of certain children with disabilities better than general pool floatation devices.
  • Drain baths, child pools, and any other water play containers completely when done.
  • Adaptive swim lessons may be helpful to teach swimming skills.

 Prevention of Elopement

  • Use visuals to mark exits and entryways (e.g., large stop signs or yellow tape) to teach children with disabilities the boundaries of safety.
  • Identification tags should be worn or identification cards carried in wallets at all times.
  • Maintain a current and easily accessible list of emergency contacts.
  • Alert the local police that your child with a disability lives in or attends school in the neighborhood.
  • Have a plan: assign adults who supervise children with disabilities specific roles in the event of an elopement and rehearse these roles in several elopement scenarios.

Additional resources

  • Safe Kids has a series of videos to promote safety in children with special needs. 
  • Additional information on fire safety plans is available here

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