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Preparing for a Disaster with Your Special Needs Child in Mind

Your child is sleeping peacefully after a long battle of the wills, and the last thing you want is to wake him for what might be a false alarm but…there is a tornado, or an earthquake or fire, or perhaps an evacuation. For any parent this is hard, but for a parent of a child with special needs, it makes it especially important to be prepared in advance to make sure things go smoothly.

Preparation needs to be done even before an emergency is declared, especially if a child has many health problems. Whether you care for a young child or an adult with special needs, one thing is certain: being able to stick to a routine as closely as possible will help. In preparing for a disaster of any kind, a grab-and-go bag is very important.

Having an up-to-date list of medications and at least a two week supply on hand is necessary for any kind of emergency. Beyond this, let us examine what kind of planning needs to go into an emergency preparedness kit.

  • Every night it is important to keep wheelchair batteries charged and ready. Also, do not forget to keep the electronic wheel chair turned off at night when not in use. If an extra battery is available, keep that in the grab-and-go kit.
  • A manual wheelchair is important to have in case of a long-term emergency.
  • Keep a two-week supply of all disposable supplies you might use day-to-day for feeding or catheters.
  • If Depends or diapers are used, have plenty on hand.
  • Keep extra contact lenses and supplies or up-to-date prescription glasses on hand.
  • Have any special dietary foods and supplies needed.
  • If the child is a baby, you will need supplies such as formula, bottles, pacifiers, a favorite blanket, and a few toys.

Let the child or the adult with special needs pack a bag with games, books, and snacks. If there is time, make sure to grab a portable DVD player, along with favorite movies to make time go by faster while waiting for an all-clear signal.

If there is an evacuation, it is important to have a list on hand of all medications, the dosage, and the doctor who prescribed it. If at all possible, get a two-week refill of all medications. Insurance policies should be in the bag, along with contact numbers. Also, take IEP papers in case the evacuation is long-term; this will ensure easy placement for your child into a school system.

In this day and age of instant media coverage, it is scary for our children. Be up front with them about what is going on, according to their age. Limit television news time. It can be even scarier, and the fear is often internalized. Be sure to address their questions. Develop a plan of action for different scenarios. Depending on the age and ability, let the child help in the planning. It will alleviate stress and keep his or her mind on the task at hand.

Make sure a routine continues as much as possible, as it will help alleviate the child’s fear. Love on them. Play games. Sing songs. Make it a family time, full of good memories.

During a crisis, it is possible that family members get separated. It is very important that children know basic information, such as their name, address, phone number, and parents names. Also important, depending on the age of the child, is that he or she knows the medications he is on, what it is for, and the dosage. It would be good that the child wear a medical alert bracelet with their medical condition printed on it as well. Make sure children know that policemen, Red Cross workers, and firemen are there to protect and help them and that it is important not to run away and hide during an emergency.

It is important to be prepared for a disaster of any kind, especially if you are a parent or caregiver to a child who has special needs. Taking an hour or two in advance, because of the special health needs of these children, could possibly save their lives. If nothing else, it will keep a routine going that all children thrive on and will certainly make a natural disaster emergency less scary for everyone.
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