Addressing Safety for Non-Functional Communicators

Addressing Safety for Non-Functional Communicators

By Marizela Linares, Paraprofessional

Safety is a critical concern for many families who have children with low to non-functional communication. A common worry is that their child will wander or run away to escape a situation that has too much sensory stimulation. The most constructive way to face these concerns is to have a safety plan in place that is updated and addressed on a regular basis.

Safety skills to practice with your child:

  • Memorize basic personal identification information (i.e. name, parent’s names, address and phone number) or have your child practice carrying around an identification card to show to adults if verbalization is difficult.
  • Practice street safety by walking within your community to ensure that your child is aware of where safe zones are and aren’t. Alert your neighbors that your child has low functioning communication in case they wander.
  • Label areas or items in your home with photographs, symbols, cards or textures to assist in communication. A home is a natural learning environment.
  • Use stop signs on doors, furniture or appliances to help a child understand that these items are off limits.
  • Contact your city government to have a safety road sign installed on your street.
  • Include safety skills in your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP).
  • Partner with law enforcement or the fire department to alert them that your child has a tendency to wander or leave.

Safety Product Options:

  • Make sure your child leaves the house with a form of identification (i.e. an ID card, a medical ID bracelet, iron-on labels, or wearable QR codes that can be printed on patches, pins, clips and shoe tags).
  • Lost and found temporary tattoos.
  • Use specially designed tracking devices, perimeter systems, smart technology or service dogs.
  • Place gates in stairwells and doorways and add childproof locks above door frames.
  • Cover electrical outlets for safety.
  • Install monitors and alarms for doors to alert you when a child has left.
  • Use emergency decals on your door or automobile window.
  • Keep car passengers safe by using a safety seatbelt.

Other Resources:

Introducing any of the above intervention techniques will not only help keep your child safe, but it will also give you peace of mind. Having a plan in place to keep your child out of harm’s way can help create positive outcomes for the whole family.