Sadly, school shootings are continuing to occur. With the recent gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I started thinking about how we can keep special need kids safe during emergencies. Regardless of how the government and education system tries to prevent school shootings from happening, it’s crucial that we take a look into how we can keep our students safe, especially thinking about those with special needs.
Children with special needs like routine, so when they are at school, it’s typical that they follow a similar routine every day. In Parkland, Florida, the shooting occurred after a fire alarm went off for the second time that day. Special needs children may have been warned about the first fire drill, but no one could have prepared for the second. All students are told how to act after the fire alarm goes off, but this occurrence was much different. I wonder how children with disabilities reacted once they realized it was not a typical fire drill. Would they have responded by hiding and staying calm? These answers are hard to know.
Special needs students can have difficulty responding to loud noises, unexpected drills, and the demand to be quiet because they can become quickly overwhelmed. While there are school crisis plans that help students be prepared for a school shooting or other unexpected event, however, not many take into account for special needs children.
“We don’t have a national model,” Dr. Dusty Columbia Embury, an associate professor of special education at Eastern Kentucky University, said. “And from district to district, they may have a general safety plan, but even within that safety plan it may or may not address students with disabilities.”
Dr. Embury and her colleague Dr. Laura Clarke wrote a guide for supporting students with disabilities during school crises. In their guide, they discuss one option to prepare students with disabilities for unexpected events. Dr. Embury and Clarke recommend having an Individual Emergency and Lockdown Plan© (IELP) in place for the students. The IELP helps address teaching and progress on acquiring the required skills for enduring a lockdown or emergency at school as an integral part of the student’s learning experience. The guide also recommends parents being actively involved in their child’s learning progression.
With evacuation and lockdowns drills becoming a regular occurrence in schools, special need students are often faced with disruptions of routine, unrealistic behavior expectations, accessibility problems, and other challenges. Keeping all students safe is a necessity, and both Dr. Embury and Dr. Clarke are developing a system that can prepare students with disabilities to stay safe in school crises.
The Gerber Baby family welcomes Lucas Warren – a 1-year-old from Georgia who has Down Syndrome! He’s the first baby with Down Syndrome to become Gerber’s “Spokesbaby of the year” in its 91-year history.
Gerber Products Company is a baby food and baby product manufacturer. In 1928, the company held a competition to find a spokesbaby that would be featured in their marketing and advertising campaigns. Artist Dorothy Hope Smith entered the contest with a simple but beautiful baby face that is now recognized around the world. The drawing was also featured on baby products include food cans.
More recently, the company decided to launch an annual baby photo contest. In 2010, Gerber decided to start a new contest where parents are encouraged to submit adorable photos of their babies. Parents can submit photos on Facebook and Instagram of their star babies for review. Gerber receives thousands of photos each year and must select only one each year. Unlike the grand prize of $300 in 1928, the winning Gerber Baby wins a $50,000 cash prize.
In 2018, Lucas Warren won the Gerber Baby Photo Search and will now appear on Gerber’s social media and advertising throughout the year.
“This is such a proud moment for us as parents knowing that Lucas has a platform to spread joy, not only to those he interacts with every day, but to people all over the country,” Cortney Warren, Lucas’ mom said. “We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have the potential to change the world — just like our Lucas.”
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, down syndrome is a genetic disorder which occurs when there is a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional chromosome alters the course of development and results in physical traits such as low muscle tone, small stature, and slanted eyes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6,000 babies in the United States are born with down syndrome, making this disorder the most common chromosomal condition for babies.
With Lucas becoming a national face for Gerber Baby, this will help educate others on down syndrome and help shed light on the special needs community.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a study conducted in 2015 found that over 6.6 million children have some type of special needs. While every child is different, the following are four major types of special needs children.
I.e., Muscular Dystrophy, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy
A physical special needs disability is any condition that prevents normal body movement and control. While there are many different types of physical disabilities, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy are common. A child with muscular dystrophy will have weakened muscle fibers while a child with cerebral palsy will have brain damage. There are many causes of physical disabilities and include genetics, serious illness, spinal cord injury and brain damage.
Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome
Developmental disabilities are generally detected early on because mental or physical impairments cause these disabilities. Common developmental disabilities are down syndrome and fragile x syndrome. Those who have down syndrome are born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, which affects brain and body development. Fragile X is another developmental disability that is thought to cause autism in boys.
Behavioral or Emotional
ADD, Bipolarized, Oppositional Defiant Disorder
A behavioral or emotional disability has many possible characteristics. Many include an inability to build or maintain interpersonal relationships, an inability to learn, and feelings of depression or anxiety. ADD is one common behavioral disability, which includes symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Bipolar disorder is a common emotional disability, which includes symptoms of depression, irritability, and distractibility.
Deaf or Limited Hearing, Blind or Visually Impaired
Sensory impairment disabilities are when one of the senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, spatial awareness) is not at the average functioning level. Common disabilities include limited hearing or visual impairment. While injury and infection can cause sensory impairment, genetics can also play a role.
Many children (and adults) have some type of special needs disability. The four major types of disabilities include physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional, and sensory impaired disorders. While many disabilities fall under one of these four umbrellas, many can fall under two or more.
About Lisa Landman
Lisa Landman earned her doctorate in psychology from Fordham University in 2005. One of the reasons why Lisa pursued psychology is due to her interest in helping others. Throughout her life, Lisa has spent time helping the most vulnerable populations of society which includes animals. She and her husband have rescued six different dogs over the years, and Lisa volunteers with the Special Olympics. Lisa particularly cares about adults with disabilities since they’re a population that tends to face increased vulnerability as they age.
Recently, Lisa Landman worked as a Residential Coordinator at Bishop Grady Villas which describes itself as a “place where adults with disabilities are able to thrive and achieve their dreams” (Bishop Grady Villas Homepage). The best part of working at Bishop Grady was getting to know the residents. Lisa found each resident to be an amazing person with a huge heart, a caring attitude, and a wonderful personality. She particularly admired the residents’ attitudes toward life. Even with their daily struggles, they approached each day with optimism.
The most difficult aspect of working at Bishop Grady Villas was the lack of funding. A large amount of the residents are on the waitlist to receive benefits from the government which Lisa Landman finds unacceptable. If the residents can’t get government assistance, then their families must pay for them to live there. Sadly, there are many adults like the residents of Bishop Grady Villas who don’t have families to help them receive the sort of attention and care they need. This unfortunate reality is one of the reasons why Lisa is motivated to assist adults with disabilities as much as possible.
Lisa Landman served as an assistant basketball coach in early 2017. Helping the Bishop Grady residents during their weekly practices was a lot of fun. Seeing how much fun the residents have during games never failed to make Lisa smile. Lisa plans to assist with more Special Olympics events in the future. Since the Special Olympics is a nationwide organization, anyone can get involved. Helping adults with disabilities is a great way to spend one’s time, and Lisa encourages everyone she knows to get involved in some manner.
Over the years Lisa Landman has worked in a variety of areas such as human resources and teaching. For eleven years she owned a fitness center where she was involved in nearly every aspect of the business. Lisa’s diverse work experience means that she can thrive in nearly any work situation. She looks forward to continuing to pursue entrepreneurial projects while helping others at the same time.