According to popular legend, the Great Chicago Fire started after Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lamp, setting her barn on fire, from where it spread to the whole city. National Fire Safety Week officially commemorates that fire, which happened in 1871, and killed 250 people.
Fortunately, historians have begun to take the blame off of poor old Mrs. O’Leary and her cows - who were actually asleep in the barn at the time.
Fire drills are crucial to the safety of children in schools - and homes. Schools run fire drills periodically throughout the school year. Here in California we also run earthquake drills. Knowing the routine of what to do when the alarm rings can avoid injuries and even save lives.
But fire drills are disruptive; loud and confusing, for many children with special needs who do not always understand what is happening, who hate changes in routines and schedules, and who cringe and cover their ears at any loud noise. The loud noise of the alarm bell can cause may children with autism discomfort - even pain - as well as anxiety. The noise can lead to tantrums; which make safe exiting the classroom difficult.
Visual cues are an important of learning and remembering any task or schedule for kids with autism - and many other special needs. Have visual cues for fire drills posted in the classroom. Have each child have his/her own copy in his/her desk. Allow them to carry these visual cues throughout the fire drill, to help remind them - without verbal nagging or unnecessary verbalizing.
Take this set of visual cues for use in your classroom or home.