Community Safety Tips for Individuals with Down syndrome
We all need to feel safe in our environment. Focusing on community safety for children and adults with disabilities is so important. Helping individuals gain the skills needed will take time, patience, consistency and solid strategies.
These generalized tips can help your loved one gain the skills and know-how needed to navigate their community safely and with confidence. If you’d like to discuss more individualized strategies for your loved one with Down syndrome, contact the appropriate DSAGC program coordinator.
For many people with Down syndrome, it is important to be prepared. Entering unfamiliar places or situations can create anxiety that can lead to poor decision-making. It’s always a good idea to notice and take mental (or actual written notes or visual diagrams) of the new environment such as nearest exits, location of an information desk/receptionist, door to stairs, etc. If the new environment is a new walking or traveling path notice signage on the side, business names along the way, trusted homes of friends or familiar neighbors and any municipalities like a police or fire station. Taking note of these resources will help if your loved-one finds themselves alone when an unexpected emergency does arise. It may be helpful to bring along a checklist of these markers for your loved-one to be reminded of what to look for. As they practice, the checklist may fade away. Repetition can help your loved-one feel more confident in their actions. Talk through the action plans of what to do if your loved-one feels lost, threatened or uneasy in various ways. Introduce them to the appropriate, trusted helper to go to. Or, choose a safe meeting point and a way for them to communicate with you.
When contacting the police for certain situations, it’s important to have your loved-one familiar with how to interact with officials. This guide may help them become more comfortable with these interactions.
A Guide to Interacting with Police for Individuals with Intellectual/ Developmental Disabilities
People with intellectual, cognitive or developmental disabilities get involved as both victims and suspects/offenders with law enforcement and with the criminal justice system. The police are ready to help in many different ways to help us feel safe. Police travel in cars, on motorcycles, on bikes on horses and even by foot.
How thoroughly we prepare will help our loved-one respond better in stressful situations which will lead to better outcome. It is a good idea for our loved-ones to practice how to stay calm in situations where they feel scared and uncomfortable. Deep breathing techniques can help and practicing all kinds of situations can help them feel confident and more empowered to make the right decisions for their safety. Help your loved-one identify what calms them in situations where they feel emotionally unsettled.
Personal Safety Tips for Individuals with Down syndrome Who May Be Independently Navigating Inside/Outside Their Home
When away from home:
- Be aware of your surroundings – look all around you and do not get distracted on your phone or in other ways
- Stay on well-lit paths. Do not go into dark alleys or wooded areas
- Avoid places that put you at risk whether alone, with friends or in a group
- If someone makes you feel uneasy tell a trusted person and remove yourself from the situation safely
- Carry a form of ID and medical insurance information
- Know your emergency contact’s contact information or carry it with you
- Do not wonder off alone when the expectation if for you to remain with someone or a group
- Keep doors locked
- If you open a window, be sure to close and lock it before bedtime or going out
- Instead of hiding a key outside, give one to a trusted neighbor
- Make sure all doors are well lit on the outside
- Do not answer the door to a stranger
- Turn off any appliances after use, i.e. oven, stove, hairdryer, heater, etc.
- Make sure your house number is clearly seen from the street for first responders
- Keep a list of important numbers handy
Community Safety Programs
Check to see if your county offers Smart 911 or Text 911. If they do not, start conversations about why these kinds of resources benefit not only your family, but the community at large. Make connections and advocate.
SMART 911 - With Smart911, you can provide 9-1-1 call takers and first responders critical information you want them to know in any kind of emergency.
When you call 9-1-1, your Smart911 Safety Profile displays on the 9-1-1 screen and the 9-1-1 call takers can view your addresses, medical information, home information, description of pets and vehicles, and emergency contacts. You can provide as much or as little information as you like.
Smart911 is a national service meaning your Smart911 Safety Profile travels with you and is visible to any participating 9-1-1 center nationwide.
TEXT 911 - Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device. However, because voice calls to 911 provide more information to 911 call centers, you should always make a voice call to 911 during an emergency whenever possible. Some individuals with Down syndrome may get flustered or not articulate as well as they’d like to in crisis situations. Texting may be a better form of communicating for some. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/what-you-need-know-about-text-911
Resources for First Responders to Effectively Help
If you have applied for SMART 911, first responders will have that information. When arriving at a scene, other resources may help them to determine the best actions to take.
- Window Clings – on cars or homes
- Help Belts – stating that your loved one may not respond to verbal commands, etc.
- ID Cards – to identify family members in case they are not verbal or are scared to speak
- GPS for locating individuals
- Medical ID info
- Temporary Tattoos – can be used to ID a loved-one while on vacation or in a large park/crowd setting
Resources for Individuals with Down syndrome to Visually Communicate
Being able to communicate with first responders or others in all situations is essential. When stress levels are heightened, verbal communication may suffer. There are resources available to help both individuals and professionals. Many of these resources are free for download: https://widgit-health.com/easy-read-sheets/index.htm , https://.widgit-health.com/downloads/for-professionals.htm
- Paramedic and EMC Communication Boards
- Accident and Emergency Communication Board
- Police Symbol Boards
- Critical Care Encounter Board
- Medical Encounter Board
- And more
**Thank you to Planning Committee of The Cincinnati Transition Bootcamp Organization for providing tangible information to families during these critical transition milestones. Information extracted from: Transition Booster Session: Being Safe in the Community and Online
About Transition Bootcamp
The Transition Bootcamp is an annual conference for parents/caregivers, youth with disabilities, educators and other professionals interested in transition from high school to adult life. This important conference provides in-depth information about various topics related to transitioning into adulthood. In addition to our breakout sessions, our Vendor Fair helps connect our attendees with Sponsors and Vendors to provide additional resources. This is a wonderful opportunity for our attendees to learn more about different organizations and programs within our community.