School Safety Resources
Here in the US, we celebrated Memorial Day on Monday, a time for remembering those who died in military service to our country. While we honor them and their tremendous sacrifices, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the tragic shooting that recently took the lives of so many elementary school children and their teachers. As we move through our grief we also start thinking of the practical aspects of helping children with AAC needs become better prepared for emergency situations in schools. We’ve updated these resources in hopes that they may be helpful to some of you.
Recent events, such as the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, have led us all to re-examine policies and procedures that impact school safety. Throughout the country, school communities are re-evaluating and fine-tuning their processes for keeping students and staff safe in the unlikely event of violent acts, such as bomb threats and active shooters. It seems surreal that we have to continue to think about and plan for this, but that is our reality.
We look at school safety drills for Code Red and lockdowns with a greater degree of importance and a heightened level of urgency. Our students with AAC needs are among the most vulnerable in any emergency situation and this is no different.
Our students may have difficulty understanding what is happening in a drill or its implications. They may have difficulty moving quickly to get to a safe space or staying quiet once they get there. Some of our students have difficulty with change, especially unexpected changes, and their anxiety may lead to behaviors that make staying safe more challenging. It is hard to keep a classroom of energetic students calm and quiet under any circumstances, but putting them into a darkened closet or clustering them into a corner behind the teacher desk is only likely to exacerbate the tension.
One of our best defenses in these situations is preparedness. Among the things we can do to prepare include:
- Developing an Individual Emergency Lockdown and Evacuation Plan (IELP);
- Creating and reading social narratives about the safety drills;
- Using mini-schedules to help students understand what they will be doing in these drills;
- Holding drills and practicing the component skills;
- Preparing materials such as a ‘Go Bag’ that contains noise-reducing headphones, stress balls, snacks, and fidget items, that we can take with us to stay calm and quietly occupied; and,
- Using our AAC systems to talk about these things in thoughtful and appropriate ways before, during, and after the drill.
In this post, we share some of the resources that teachers and therapists have created to help familiarize our students with school safety drills. You can browse the interactive image below using the right slider bar or click here for a full-sized version. There are many downloadable resources, such as a Teacher Guide, social narratives, mini-schedules, graphic organizers, and more. Thanks to all who created these materials and are so generously sharing them.
Do you have tips or materials that you’d recommend to prepare our AAC students for school safety drills? We’d love to
This post was written by Carole Zangari