When the Alarm Rings

My daughter came home from school the other day a little shaken up about a fire alarm. There was an emergency in her school which prompted an unexpected evacuation. They evacuated the building with their coats and waited outside. Since it was cold and rainy they were then told to wait in the gymnasium and theater. Some children also waited on school buses. This emergency was due to an electrical issue and thankfully was not life threatening. It was enough however to add more anxiety to the anxiety my daughter already has.

Most of the kids called or texted their parents while they were waiting to go back to their classes. From what I heard from other parents the areas their kids were waiting in were chaotic. Because of my daughter’s disability she was unable to contact me. Although she was perfectly safe throughout the evacuation I find myself thinking what if this had been a real life threatening scene. What if the “chaos” was not controlled. What if my child got separated from her teachers in the chaos. My husband tells me to stop because I am going to the dark side. How can any mother of a child with a disability not think about it.

We live in a scary world. All parents let it cross their mind occasionally. You can be fearful but that doesn’t mean you don’t let your kid go to school or anywhere else. Most parents trust that in a real emergency their child would be able to find help.

Special needs parents can’t always rely on that thought. They can’t always trust that their child would be able to find the help they needed in an emergency. Instead special needs parents rely on other people. We entrust our kids to teachers at school and caregivers at home. And as much as you trust other people it’s not the same as feeling confident that your child could do it alone.

So what do we do? Do you practice? How many times do you practice? Our kids have had practice fire alarms since they were in kindergarten. Unfortunately our kids are now practicing lockdown drills too. There has been some controversy however about wether these drills actually would work during a real emergency.

There have been many discussions about how to handle our children with special needs during an emergency situation. But they have just been discussions. It’s time to put a real plan into action and communicate that plan with staff, rescue workers, parents and the community. Chances are a real life threatening emergency is not going to happen while our children are at school. That is the greatest amount of time however that my child is out of my eyesight and I want to know what steps are being taken to ensure her safety.

Every school district needs to have a written plan in place for our special needs children. Every special needs parent should make sure they have one. Am I on the dark side here? Yes. When that alarm rings though, I would like to know how my child is being accommodated.

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