Disabilities come in many different forms; some children have physical impairments such as vision or hearing loss, which means you need to tailor their safety needs depending on how they receive information. Others have trouble processing pain, so they may not realize that a particular activity is unsafe. Here are some things to think about this summer as your family prepares for fun or travel.
Playground equipment can provide hours of fun for kids, but it’s important to explore the area yourself first to make sure there are no sharp edges or hot metal (slides are a major culprit during hot summer days). Take a look around the perimeter to make sure there are no broken pieces of equipment or tripping hazards and address as needed. Areas filled with mulch, sand, or other soft materials are preferable over gravel or concrete. Finally, simply being present and aware of your child’s activities while they play is invaluable. It’s important to make sure your child is rested; tiredness can contribute to slow reactions or attention deficit, which can be dangerous should your child fall or injure themselves.
Pools, beaches, and lakes are always great destinations for families in the summer, but there are a few things to think about outside of general water safety where a child with disabilities is concerned. According to the CDC, many items of safety equipment may need to be specially fitted for your child, such as life jackets. If you’ll be going out on a boat, you may need to prepare to have a harness or seat belt to keep your child safely contained in their seat. Many of the bigger beaches offer ramps or boardwalks that will be fine for wheelchairs, but sandy areas often aren’t. You may need to do a bit of research before your trip to find out what you need to bring for the ultimate safety and comfort of your child.
Staying in hotels or with family
Staying in a hotel can be a relaxing experience for many; no dishes to wash or laundry to do, and room service when you don’t feel like going out. If you’re staying with a child who has a disability, however, it’s important to make sure the room is equipped with anything they might need in case of an emergency. Do the fire alarms have strobe lights for the hearing impaired? Does the shower have a safety rail and firm rubber mat? If there is a swimming pool, is the area kept secured so children can’t wander over? Are the doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair?
Staying in an unfamiliar home can present an entirely different set of issues, including toys that may be choking hazards and unsafe kitchen implements that need to be put up. It’s important to talk with your hosts to make sure they’re aware of your child’s needs, especially if they have food allergies. Also, talk with your child about where you’re staying and let them know of any safety issues and what to do in case of an emergency. For children who have trouble with communication, it’s imperative to talk to them about their surroundings because they may not be able to tell someone--perhaps in your absence--that they are in danger.
Summertime sports can be big fun for kids of almost any age, and they’re also a wonderful boost to self-esteem and can help little ones in being social. It’s important to communicate with coaches and teachers about your child’s needs before they get started, especially if a learning disability could make things complicated down the line. Some equipment may need to be adjusted for your child, as well.
Summertime can be fun for your whole family, no matter what their needs or abilities are. Keeping these tips in mind can help you relax a little knowing that your loved one is taken care of.
Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.
Photo by Pixabay via AdinaVoicu