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Esther Leung
BY Esther Leung

When the Lights Go Out: How to Prepare your Child with Special Needs for a Power Outage

When listening to the news these days, it is a reminder that emergency preparedness is something important for every household to plan for. Regardless of location, a power outage is something that can take place no matter where you live.  There is never a way to predict when and how long a power outage will be so it is important to be prepared. If there is a child with special needs living in your home consider implementing these eight ideas when preparing for a power outage.

1. Technology Inventory

Take inventory of what kind of backup energy supplies you need. Stock up on extra batteries on hand, for electronics, toys, tablets and medical equipment. Consider what kind of technology your child uses for equipment. Plan for low-tech or no-tech solutions. For example, a manual wheelchair instead of the battery operated chair; picture cards or communication board instead of the tablet.

2. Remove Fear of the Dark

Look into a special flashlight or lamp that your child can also hold if they are particularly anxious in the dark. Glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark bracelets/necklaces are safe and fun for your children to hold on to.

3. Activity Backpack

Make a special emergency activity backpack of fun activities and snacks that your child would enjoy. Include fidget toys and sensory activities. The dollar store is a great spot to stock up on these items. If your child is able to participate, include him/her in this process so they will feel more prepared and confident when an outage occurs. If possible, have him/her put their kit somewhere they can easily access.

4.  Social Stories

Prepare a personalized social story about what your child can do during a power outage. For some children, it can be helpful to have heard and seen images of what could happen ahead of time. It can also be read during the outage.

5. Power Outage Drill

Similar to the fire drills at school, rehearse and practice what to do if a power outage were to happen at home.

6. Prepare Food

If the power outage is several days, make sure you have food items that your child is able to eat – especially if your child has particular food preferences or dietary restrictions.

7. Old School Contact Lists

Have a hard copy of a contact list for your child’s medical and support team since most of our information is stored on our phones. It is also helpful to have this information accessible in case the outage happens if you are not home and your child has a different caregiver watching him or her.

8.  Prepare for Anxiety

During the outage, it will no doubt be stressful for you as you try to adjust and get things done without electricity. If it is stressful for you, think about how your child may feel. Extra patience and time will be needed to coach your child through the situation. Provide extra reassurance and acknowledge feelings that they may be experiencing. Also, try to have fun and memorable family time.

For more ideas and tips about supporting an individual with disabilities, please refer to this article prepared by the Department of Homeland Security.

Esther Leung

Written on September 26, 2017 by:

Esther Leung is a special needs consultant who has worked with children, youth and families. She has 15 years of experience in a variety of settings including homes, childcare, schools and recreational settings. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and 2 young boys.