Friday, September 27, 2013

Emergency Drills and Autism

Depending on where you live will depend on they type of drills your schools will run. fire drills, hurricane drills, tornado drills, and lock down drills. The thing about drills is they can be loud, chaotic and raise ones anxiety.

Time and time again I see parents doing what they think is right. They think they are protecting their child. Really they mean no harm but they are doing a great disservice to their children. Here's what they do they fight and fight to have their child excused from drills. They have them warned of them, they show up themselves during drills, and I have even seen parents go as far as to take the child out of school during a drill.

OK I get it. The anxiety and your day may be shot after a drill. they are stressful. Removing the child from a drill before it happens is just bad. I am a former Sped aide and I was also a medic. I know how important these drills are. Staff needs to be prepared for everything, every situation, and every bad possibility. If the person is removed from every drill the staff cannot be adequately prepared.

The drills are not just to practice and get everyone out. During a drill we can see how each person is going to react. Is someone going to shut down? Will someone run and hide? Is someone going to go into full meltdown mode? During a drill we get to see these things without there being any real threat to safety. There is more to a drill than just getting everyone out or to a certain location. For some we need to plan how we will get them there.  The time to learn that Johnny is going to flip out and run and hide is not during a active fire. If everyone around knows hey Johnny is probably going to run he is the first you look for and get with the the group.

Yes drills are stressful! Yes they are chaotic! Yes anxiety raises! Even with all that drills are a necessary evil. All parents want to protect their kids. At all costs we want them to have the easy way. It's easy to think well if I can make this easier its a good thing. Sometimes what you think is protecting your child may someday put them in harms way. Easy is not always good. We all have to do hard things in life. Emergency drills should be one of them.

1 comment:

  1. I have a child who has a lot of anxiety about fire drills, I'm not sure if you do and are speaking from personal experience or not. His anxiety about drills extends into his life at every aspect, the drill itself is not the problem it's what he does to himself about it that is. At home there is constant talk of fire drills, when they happen, when they will happen, when they will happen next. He is autistic and that makes him obsessive in addition to being anxious; I'm sure you can understand that.

    It's part of life with my autistic child that I need to help him to manage his anxiety, and if this means making special accommodations for him, in whatever form that takes, then that is what I will do. I need to know in advance when they will happen so that I can help him with the process, if one is "sprung" on him then he will have a complete and total shutdown (he doesn't have meltdowns, he has shutdowns) and he experiences terrible mental anguish. Of course you can understand the need to help him with this. Just recently I posted about this on Facebook (and I wonder if you saw that before you wrote this?) about how wonderful and accommodating our school staff is and how they made the process so easy for him. This is a brand new school for him, which he is already anxious about, and adding the first fire drill on top of that? His anxiety was out of control. Standing in the office with him and the Vice Principal while he watched her turn the key is what is going to make these drills bearable for him in the future. Afterwards he happily ran off to line up with the rest of the kids, because I insisted that he participate in the drill so that he would know what to do if an unplanned one happened. And it just so happened that 3 hours after the planned drill happened, there was a small fire in the cafeteria and an unplanned drill happened. He was anxious and fearful, yes, but not as much as he would have been if he hadn't had that experience that morning. When he came home he barely even mentioned the second drill.

    Yes drills and stressful and chaotic! And yes my son has crippling anxiety about them and I'm not just going to throw him to the wolves to deal with it without support, and I will make no apologies for that.