Use opportunities to point out "Exit" signs to your special needs child.

How to Teach Fire Safety to Special Needs Kids

by Cara Batema

Fire safety is important for all kids, but children with special needs have higher rates of injury, often due to lack of safety plans. While you might have taught your special needs preschooler about fire safety, without regular practice or reminding, your child might forget some helpful tips that could save his life or prevent injury. Making fire safety practice fun or using tools like sign language or memorable tunes will help make the lesson palatable for both you and your preschooler.

Create fire safety plans for your home, church, preschool, doctor’s office or other location you visit frequently. Use visual aids like green and red cards (for “go” and “stop”) that show your child where to exit. Frequently point out objects like “Exit” signs so your preschooler understands what they mean. Review your fire safety plan with your entire family.

Teach your child about the sound of a smoke alarm and what it means. For special needs kids who are hearing impaired, consider using a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm. Every once in a while, remind your child about the smoke alarm to use repetition in aiding memorization.

Practice the action of staying low to the ground when evacuating a building. If your special needs child is unable to crawl or move himself, teach him how you will use a blanket to drag him across the floor. This process might be uncomfortable for your preschooler, so it’s important to practice it; make it into a game so your child might enjoy the lesson.

Visit a fire station or contact your local emergency officials to let them know you have a special needs child. Your preschooler will love the field trip and will learn not to fear firefighters or police officers. Let your child play with fire trucks and pretend he is going to save the town from fire.

Practice with your child the idea of “stop, drop and roll” in the event her clothing catches fire. Children who are mobile will enjoy the opportunity to roll on the floor. If your child is in a wheelchair, for example, teach him how to fall out of his chair and roll from side to side.

Use social stories and books with pictures to teach about fire safety. As your preschooler continues to develop cognitively or depending on the severity of his special need, he might be able to grasp more concepts about fire safety. Use pictures to explain what happens during a fire and the appropriate reaction in such a situation.


  • The more often you practice fire safety, the more likely your special needs child will remember what to do in the situation.


  • Don't forget to check batteries in your smoke detector and have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergency.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images