Physical Disabilities

For children with physical disabilities, we recommend adhering to childproofing recommendations for the able-bodied child. Some additional safety precautions might need to be in place for fall prevention and emergency preparedness.

Fall Safety

  • Install secure handrails and grab bars in bathrooms and stairways.
  • Place non-slip strips on the tub’s surface.
  • Remove area rugs.
  • Secure safety gates at the top and bottom of every staircase.
  • Install window guards to prevent windows from opening more than 4 inches.
  • Use coilers in place of shoe laces to prevent tripping.
  • Always supervise your child.
  • Consult with your therapist about the need for a shower/tub bench.

Burn/Fire Safety

  • Reduce water heater temperature to 110 degrees or lower.
  • Install childproof outlets or outlet covers to prevent electric burns.
  • Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
  • Use stove knob covers or a stove guard to prevent children from turning on the burners and an oven lock to prevent opening the oven door.
  • Remove tablecloths and runners and place hot food in center of table.
  • Install smoke alarms with a strobe light for hearing impaired children.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and change batteries when you adjust your clock every spring and fall.

Choking Safety

  • Some children with physical impairments require adaptive seating, feeding implementsand techniques.  Please consult your occupational therapist for your child’s specific needs.
  • Avoid giving children small round foods such as hot dogs, cheese sticks/chunks, hard candy, nuts, grapes and popcorn. Check with your pediatrician about your child’s particular needs.
  • Test small objects by using an empty toilet paper tube or small object tester. If object slides through it is a potential choking hazard.
  • Secure and support your child in an upright position when eating or being fed.
  • Avoid latex balloons use only mylar balloons. Never leave bags such as dry cleaning bags in reach of children.
  • Cover all band aids with clothing to avoid biting or chewing on pieces.
  • Learn child CPR and stay CPR-certified.

Poisoning Safety

  • Store medicines and toxic household products out of sight and reach.
  • Keep all chemicals and medicines in original containers. Many resemble juices and candies.
  • Install locks on cabinets and drawers, making sure you choose ones that work to keep your child out of harm’s way.
  • Give medications in proper doses for age and weight of the child.
  • Remind your child regularly about avoiding these items, using stories or pictures to ensure that they understand.
  • Keep a list of your child’s medical conditions and medications/doses your child takes.
  • Post the poison control center number by every phone: 1-800-222-1222.

Pedestrian Safety

  • Mark wheelchairs with reflective tape or lighting and add a bike flag for greater visibility.
  • Teach your child safe behaviors in traffic; set clear limits and enforce rules.
  • Work with your community to install sloped curbs, signs or audible devices.

    To link up with your community, visit Safe Routes to School on Facebook. 
    Click here.

Playground Safety

  • Avoid playgrounds with asphalt, concrete, grass, dirt and soil surfaces under the equipment.
  • Remove hood and neck drawstrings from children’s clothing, necklaces and don’t let kids wear helmets on the playground as the strap can pose a strangling hazard.
  • Look for ways you can help your child enjoy the equipment.For information on special needs playground equipment, visit Shanes Inspiration. Click here.

Water Safety

  • Find the right life jacket for your child’s needs; this may include choosing an adaptive life jacket or a standard Type I or Type II life jacket.
  • Always keep children within arm’s reach while in or near the water, this includes bathtubs, toilets, hot tubs, pools and open water. Adult supervision is a must at all times.
  • Take adaptive aquatics classes together as a family to learn swim skills and reinforce general water safety principles.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub.
  • When using bath seats, do not leave your child alone.
  • Consult your occupational therapist for recommendations.

Car Seats

Children with physical disabilities will require special seating, even in a vehicle. Please refer to our section on child passenger safety for children with long-term needs.

Consult with your child’s physical therapist to determine the best seat for your child’s ability. For information on Rady Children’s Child Passenger Safety, click here.

Emergencies & Disaster Safety

  • Contact your fire department to notify them your child has special needs and if there is any oxygen or special equipment in use.
  • Consider a medical alert device for your child, such as a Medic Alert bracelet.
  • Create a bag with flash lights, emergency numbers, communication device, extra batteries, first aid items, water, food and backup prescription medications.
  • Create and practice an escape plan for your family including techniques that include feeling along the wall to get to safety.
  • For children that cannot communicate verbally keep a whistle or alarm near your child’s bed to alert others to danger.
  • Keep a blanket or scooter board near child’s bed to drag him/her to safety.
  • Consider a guide dog.
  • Complete an Emergency Information form for each family member with special needs.

For more information on home safety for children with special needs, visit www.safekids.org/safety-basics/special-needs.

Childproofing alone cannot prevent your child from getting into a dangerous situation. It does not replace ADULT SUPERVISION. Consider multiple layers of protection.