Parents of special needs children have several unique and sometimes challenging needs and situations. Finding and recovering a missing child is perhaps one of the most frightening and difficult situations that a parent of a special needs child may encounter.
Per the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, children with special needs may be especially vulnerable to child abduction, kidnapping, and being a missing child. Depending on the physical impairments, social, cognitive impairments, or communication challenges, a child with special needs may behave or act differently than their nondisabled peers, putting them at increased risk and/or impeding search and rescue efforts.
Compounding the situation, depending on their disability these kids may be prone to wander, run away from safe environments. These children may also have a decreased sense of fear. They may not respond appropriately with adults or in social situations. They may engage in risk – taking behaviors due to that lack of fear. The Autism society has reported that this is especially true for children with Autism, as these children tend to be extremely drawn to water, often lack safety awareness skills (safely crossing the road) and due to social deficits may be at greater risk of stranger persuasion as they are unable to perceive the strangers from a known adult. In some cases, children with special needs may hide away from search teams, preferring to tuck themselves into small, confined, spaces, and non-verbal children may not be able to respond.
Parents of special needs children receiving special education services need to ensure that safety skills are being adequately taught and addressed in their child’s IEP. Safety skills taught can include teaching a young child to walk side by side with trusted adult (reducing the risk of running in the street), teaching how to accurately and properly use a cell phone, identify when and what constitutes a need to call 911, teach how to identify “safe people” (police officer, fire-fighter or security guard), also teaching what to do if approached by a stranger using modeling and practicing various scenarios, how to respond in an emergency situation (natural disaster, active shooter, etc., thus reducing chances of getting lost, running away), how to use the internet safely (reducing their chances of being targeted by online predators) and how to manage bullying.
We found this wonderful recently launched Kidnap Prevention Guide developed by our friends at Kidguard.