May Institute and Safe Kids Columbus Teach Child Safety Skills to Children with Autism and Other Special Needs


Columbus, GA: The May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Safe Kids Columbus are teaming up on Saturday to address child safety concerns, including wandering, for children with special needs at the 3rd Annual Salute to Safety. The event is being held at the Northern Little League Fields in Columbus from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, 2011. Salute to Safety will take place during opening day of the 2011 Challenger Little League Baseball program.

First responders from the local community and staff from May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Safe Kids Columbus will teach families and children with special needs how to stay safe and respond in the event of an emergency. Children will be able to climb aboard police cars, all-terrain and emergency medical vehicles, and fire trucks.

“Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other special needs are more likely to act impulsively – to run away or wander – than their typically developing peers. It is even more difficult for these children to distinguish a stranger from a friend, putting them in greater danger of becoming lost or hurt. Basic safety skills may some day become critical life-saving skills,” shares Melissa Chevalier, M.S., BCBA, Program Director of the May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Columbus, Ga., a program of May Institute. May Institute is a national network of programs serving individuals with ASD and other special needs.

Amy Bontrager, Community Outreach Coordinator, says, “It is essential for both first responders in our community and children with special needs to feel secure around each other if an emergency were to occur. Having an opportunity to meet actual police, fire fighters, and emergency response professionals that work in their community in an environment that is friendly and fun will make it more likely that these children will respond positively to first responders in the future.”

Some tips for families to help protect their children:

  • File a disability indicator form local first responders.
  • Give them a handout with a picture of your child, physical characteristics and emergency contact information.
  • Place STOP or DO NOT ENTER signs on all doors opening to the outside: These can be powerful visual cues and reminders not to wander.
  • Secure your home.
  • Teach swimming at an early age.
  • Eliminate triggers for wandering.
  • Get an ID bracelet or necklace and tag personal items that gives emergency contact information or personal IDs and on tags for shoes, clothes and backpacks.
  • Consider a personal tracking device.

About the May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders
The May Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders offers a comprehensive set of educational and behavioral services to children and their families, private agencies, and public schools throughout the Tri-County area and beyond. The Center also provides services to military families stationed at Fort Benning and other bases across the Southeast. For more information, visit

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