When children reach about 14 years of age, most parents feel confident about leaving them home alone for a certain amount of time. For parents of teens with intellectual disabilities, though, that decision is more complicated. Will their child know how to respond if there’s an emergency, get out if the smoke alarm sounds, and call 9-1-1?
Recently Dr. Robert Cole of Community Health Strategies presented a fire safety seminar sponsored by Prevention1st to faculty of the Cooke Center for Learning and Development in New York City. The Cooke Center provides special education services for students ages 5 through 21 with mild-to-moderate cognitive or developmental disabilities and severe language-based learning disabilities. One of the take-aways they have incorporated into their curriculum is the importance of learning and practicing what to do when the smoke alarm goes off.
“Fire safety has always been a topic we’ve covered, but Bob’s seminar really brought out how important it is to have a specific plan if there’s an emergency,” said Virginia Skar, CCC-SLP, Chair of Adaptive Services at Cooke Center. The Center has now integrated exit planning into the journal the school creates as part of parental involvement in educational planning, goal setting, and review of their child’s progress.
Cooke Center also successfully used play safe! be safe!, a fire safety program developed by BIC Corporation for use with young children, as part of the spring semester’s health and safety life skills instruction for their 14- to 18-year-old students.
“Play safe! is a wonderful fit for us,” said Skar, who adapted the program to be age-appropriate for high school by modifying some materials, such as replacing images of children with cutouts of adults. “The materials are interactive and sensory-rich. It provides appropriate learning objectives, and techniques are broken down into manageable steps. These are good for teaching anyone!”