Blog #272: More About School Safety Drills for Special Education Students

Continuing from where I left off in the previous blog, I want to further emphasize the fact that School Safety Drills are extremely bothersome to Special Education students.

However, while state laws require schools to practice various drills several times a year, it’s essential for there to be a bridge built between teacher and parent in a sense that special education students need to be given the chance to approach a school safety drill using baby steps.

In the past, I talked about how I went through these drills as a student and there is so much that is going through my mind in terms of sensory processing and how everything around seems to be going at a frantic pace.

If you are a special education parent, the most common solution would be to put an accommodation in your child’s IEP that he or she is notified of the impending drill. But there is more to it than that. Just putting an accommodation request isn’t enough.

Some school personnel may have cold feet on the idea that you are asking too much to the point that the student doesn’t have to participate in the drill.

To this end, there are 6 practices that can be taken by schools that can soften the pressure of a school safety drill. As I have said before in previous blogs, you aren’t going to get everything you want to make things easier for your child. There has to be a compromise because while the unthinkable may be hundreds of miles away, it’s always good to be prepared.

Anyways, according to, the 6 practices are as follows:

Seek input from the student. In the case of functional needs, the student may be able to provide advice on how best to assist them during an emergency (wheelchairs, paralysis, vision or hearing impaired, etc.).

Seek input from the parents or aides. In the case of students with learning disabilities or on the autism spectrum, there are often best strategies on keeping the student calm and working through sudden changes in environment. Resources such as headphones, relaxation apps, storytelling and kinesthetic learning may all be options.

Create specialized kits for each special needs student based upon the above input. This will ensure the student has the resources they need to follow directions and stay safe.

Regardless of ability, drills should be in context and relatable to students. Age-appropriate conversations by the teachers before any drill will frame the context to what they are doing and why.

Visual aids, hand signs or flags can assist students with hearing impairment to recognize and respond to the emergency.

Conduct drills with special education classrooms separate from other emergency drills at first, then later combine with the general school population. Allow for extended time, practicing with specialized equipment and engage aides/parents in the process.

Now, these 6 practices are practices that can be brought up not just at IEP meetings, but also at staff meetings and trainings. Not only for Special Education teachers, but also General Education teachers can be trained these practices too because who knows? There could be a student with fears of school safety drills, and they may not even know it.

It’s also a good idea to sit the students down and explain to them that they if they are having a meltdown as a result of the drill, they are more than welcome to let out their emotions. That’s why guidance counselors and psychologists are on duty, to be there for students and teachers if they are having a bad day.

It also helps if there is a school staff member who has goodies such as treats to give to the student to help them calm down after a sensory provoking event. My high school psychologist always had treats in her office as an example for anyone if they are having a bad day as an example.

As the new school year rolls on, I once again relay the message that when we go through a school safety drill, it affects everyone: student, teacher, administrator, etc. For some, it doesn’t bother them, but for others, it can ruin their day before it even begins or add onto an already stressful day.

So, take into account the feelings that go through a special education student’s mind the next time your school does a safety drill.

Catch you all later!!