10 Strategies to Keep Your Special Needs Child Safe This Holiday Season

Written by | Updated November 9, 2016


This post was written for SafeWise by our partners at AngelSense

With the holiday season just around the corner, many families are getting ready to enjoy the festivities filled with carols and candy canes. But it isn’t a sugar-coated experience for all. For many special needs families, the holidays tend to be daunting. The good news is that they don’t have to be.

This holiday season can be enjoyable, stress-free and safe for your entire special needs family. It just takes a little preparation, the willingness to be flexible and a good sense of humor. After all, with the right outlook you can make overcoming the unique challenges posed by the holidays fun and memorable. However you choose to approach it, keep in mind that there’s nothing more important than your special child’s safety and well-being.

1. Dress up for the occasion

Bright clothing that can be identified easily in a crowd is best for events where there are lots of people. In addition to a glow-in-the-dark wristband, you might want to look into getting an easily identifiable vest or hat. Be sure to find an appropriate clothing item for your child as not all special needs children will wear hats, for example. Also make sure the clothing is bright enough to be spotted from a distance. Bright yellow or green works best.

Why is this important? Clothing can be an easy and hassle-free way to quickly identify your child when there are lots of people around. This is particularly important during the holiday season when your special child may be more likely to wander.

2. Alert your neighbors

Most children with special needs struggle with change which can make this a particularly challenging time of year. This coupled with the sensory overwhelm many children experience during the festive season, increases the likelihood that a child will run off. One way to prevent this is to ask your neighbors to contact you immediately if they see your child wandering around the neighborhood alone. It’s also a good idea to give them a picture of what clothing your child is wearing on special occasions.

Why is this important? By enlisting the help of your neighbors you make it easier to find your child should they wander. This can be especially effective during the holiday season as it creates an informal neighborhood watch group that will look out for your child.

3. Get your child an ID bracelet

An ID bracelet is a good option for a child with special needs. This is particularly useful for children who are nonverbal. If your child is verbal and able to express themselves clearly, be sure to teach them key contact information and practice this with them as often as possible.

Why is this important? An ID bracelet is a useful way to alert strangers to your child’s unique needs. This increases the likelihood that a child that has a tendency to wander will be brought home safely.

4. Consider investing in a tracking device

A tracking device is one of the best ways to ensure your special child stays safe during the holidays. AngelSense GPS tracker tells you exactly where your child is at all times so you can immediately pinpoint their location if they get lost.

Why is this important? Tracking devices are essential for children who have a tendency to wander as they enable parents to locate their missing child within seconds. This gives worried parents the peace of mind they deserve and has even been proven to save lives.

5. Evaluate the event venue

Not all venues are suitable for a child with special needs. It’s important to carefully consider your child’s unique requirements. For example, if your child has sensory issues, a crowded park may not be the best place to have a family picnic. Doing this in advance will give you the opportunity to make sure the environment is safe and that there’s an area where your child can play without too much noise or sensory stimulation.

Why is this important? Making sure a venue is suitable for your child can help prevent sensory meltdowns, and will make it easier for both you and your child to relax and enjoy the holiday.

6. Monitor your child for signs of anxiety and stress

You know your special child better than anyone which is why it’s especially important to keep a close eye on them during the holiday season. The earlier you spot any signs of stress, anxiety or overwhelm the quicker you can deal with them, and this can help keep your child safe. If you do identify signs of distress, take your child to a quiet place to help them calm down at their own pace. It’s also important to be sensitive to your child’s unique sensory issues. This way you can help them avoid situations that will be overstimulating.

Why is this important? Monitoring your child will keep their anxiety under control and will prevent any sensory overwhelm from escalating. This will prevent acting out and could decrease the likelihood of wandering.

7. Rehearse the event

You can keep your child safe this holiday season by rehearsing certain events beforehand. This should include a plan of what to do when you get to different places and what your child should do if they get separated from you.

Why is this important? Having a plan will not only help keep your child safe, but will also reduce anxiety levels as they’ll have a clear set of instructions to rely on and know exactly what to expect.

8. Holiday-proof your home

From candles to christmas trees, the festive season poses unique safety risks for all children, but even more so in the case of children with special needs. It’s a good idea to thoroughly check your home for any potential safety risks a few days before the holidays start. Things to watch out for include breakable ornaments, candles that could fall over and cause a fire and objects which could easily be tripped over.

Why is this important? Holiday-proofing your home greatly reduces risk and is one of the best ways to ensure you and your family enjoy a safe holiday.

9. Make sure gifts are appropriate

It’s important to make sure any gifts your child receives are suitable for their age and unique needs. If the gift is a toy, check that they can’t choke or get hurt when playing with it. It’s also worth checking that the toy isn’t too stimulating. If the gift is edible, it’s essential to make sure it doesn’t contain any trigger ingredients that your child is allergic to.

Why is this important? Gifts that aren’t suitable for a child can be hazardous and may even endanger your child’s life.

10. Develop your child’s safety awareness

During the holiday season, it’s important to enforce some rules about what your child can and can’t do. This will help create a sense of structure and is also a good way to boost your child’s safety awareness. You could, for example, make a rule that your child can’t leave the house without the permission of an adult.

Why is this important? By enforcing certain rules, you’ll not only give your child the structure they lack during the holiday but can help prevent accidents from happening.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for your special needs family. By taking your child’s unique needs into account, you can make this a safe and enjoyable holiday to remember.

Written by Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is a home automation and community safety consultant for SafeWise.com. She enjoys writing helpful tips and in-depth reviews. Sarah believes that through entertainment, technology and the written word, we can all stay connected to each other and create a safe environment out in the ether. Learn more

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