Preparing for Emergencies with a Special-Needs Child, by F.J.

Prepping for emergency situations is always a difficult task, especially when considering various limitations that you and your family may have (including financial restraints, locale features and challenges, health of your household members, your network of family and friends-or a lack of a network, etc.)  As for my wife and I, we have the added burden of preparing with a loveable, huggable special-needs child in mind.  As the numbers of children with physical, mental, and/or neurological difficulties continue to rise in this country, a growing number of preppers will need to consider the issue of sustaining a special-needs child through difficult times.  Even those that do not have special-needs children in their care may feel compelled to aid a relative or friend who does care for such a child when the time arises.   While I base many of these ideas upon the needs of my family and child, they may be helpful in starting or perfecting your own preparation plans to assist your special-needs child during times of peril.

In this article, I use the term “medical professional” to refer to persons that provide medical & healing services.  This may include, but is not limited to, medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, nutritionists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, pastors, massage therapists, and/or anyone else that is competent in treating and healing the human body and mind.  I also use the term “medicine” to refer to pharmaceuticals, vitamins, minerals, supplements, foods, and/or other resources that can treat or heal the human body and mind.   As a believer in medical freedom, I advocate for the right of a parent or authorized caregiver to treat their child with the medical services of his or her choice that is in the best interest of the child’s health and well-being.

Preparations to Consider for the Child

First, the parent or caregiver of a special-needs child must be able to comprehend how to treat the issues that the child faces when a medical professional is not available.  In treating our child, we looked to find medical professionals who (a) were not married to “traditional” western medicine, but looked to a number of healing methods, (b) willing to listen to our concerns, and (c) could explain to us the problems that our child faced.  These professionals, from the first visit, developed a plan with us that we could use to treat our child.   While we are not experts in medical treatment, they made sure that we understood enough in order to facilitate the healing process for our child.  If you or someone you know has no idea what to do in order to help your child during a time when a medical professional is not available, contact your child’s practitioner in order to set up such a plan.  It is also important to have this information available to others in case you are unable to provide the treatment yourself.

In addition, you need to stockpile any needed medical supplies and equipment that would help you execute the treatment plan for your child.  Of course, some medicines or supplies have a short shelf life or storage concerns that can make stockpiling difficult or impossible.  In such cases, it can help to consult with your child’s medical professional to develop alternatives supplies and/or equipment that can be stored and used in these situations.  While the alternatives may be less effective that the preferred medicine or medical supply, it can help the child maintain some normalcy until the preferred products are available again. 

Maintaining a strong immune system for your child would make the transition to an emergency situation easier.  Some special-needs children are more susceptible to infection and illness than normally developing children.  Eliminating unnatural “foods,” providing proper vitamins and minerals, and regular physical and mental activity can help prepare your child for potential diseases that may occur during or after an emergency.  There are various tests, some inexpensive, that can measure items such as your child’s nutritional levels, toxicity, and food allergies; these can be starting points to strengthening your child’s immune system.  There are also a number of medical professionals that are experienced in proper nutrition and supplementation for special-needs children.

Speaking of nutrition, you should also plan to meet the special dietary needs that your child may have.  In our own food storage, we only keep products that our child can also consume.  While this somewhat limits the variety and quantity of our foods (due to increased costs for these products,) we will not have to worry about him eating food from our storage that he is allergic or sensitive to.  It also ensures that there is a substantial amount of food available for him.  While this method of food storage may not be preferable or practical for all, you must ensure that your child has a sufficient amount and variety of food to survive during an emergency situation.  You may also consider growing foods that are earmarked for your special-needs child.  Being forced to feed your child food that sickens him or her may be worse than not feeding your child at all. 
Toileting of special-needs children must also be considered by the prepper.  Some special-needs children may not be toilet-trained and will require diapers.  This requires not only an emergency supply of diapers, but also means of diaper disposal, especially if there is no garbage collection available.  Other items to consider storing would be baby wipes (or some other method of cleaning waste from skin,) skin protectants such as oils or petroleum jelly, diaper rash treatments, and materials to eliminate diaper pail scents.

Grooming and bathing can also be a challenge for special-needs children in emergency situations.  Cleaning my child with a washcloth from a sink, for some reason, causes him to “freak out.”  He also has issues with water being poured on top of his head (making hair washing a challenge.)  If your child has challenges related to grooming and bathing in normal conditions, it would be beneficial to determine how to best approach the changes that may occur when there is no running water, no power, no hot water, etc.  If possible, practicing different methods of grooming and bathing ahead of time can help you determine the best courses of action to take when the situation arises.

You must also remember that your special-needs child is still a child.  As such, you should plan to have games and activities that he or she can play despite the circumstances of the emergency.  This can include books, board games, music from battery-powered radios or MP3 players, coloring books, or anything that can bring a smile to your child.  Consider in advance what materials you would need, including those things that can be used in a no or low-power situation.  If possible, consult with your child; he or she can even help you pick out those things that can bring a smile in an otherwise miserable situation.

Preparations to Consider for Yourself and Your Household

In preparing for your child’s needs during emergency situations, you must also plan for how your special-needs child can affect you and your other family members (and vice-versa.)   The family dynamic can change during these times.  Your family may move to a new location.  Other persons may come to live with your family.  A prominent family member may be forced to leave the home due to other obligations (such as military orders.)  Tragically, one or more family members may themselves become incarcerated, incapacitated, missing, or dead.  Special-needs children may have reactions to certain people either being in the home or away from the home.  Some special-needs children have difficulty adjusting to new situations or surroundings.  While it is difficult to adequately plan for these scenarios, discussing these issues with your child, spouse, family members, medical professionals, and others that can provide informative advice may help you become mentally prepared to assist your child through these and other potential changes.
Your plan for operational security should include the potential actions of your special-needs child.  Our child screams whenever he is happy.  He screams whenever he is upset.  He is difficult to keep quiet and still, even when he thinks he is being quiet and still.  Plan for ways to maintain operational security, even if it may be an inconvenience or stressful to your child.  Please note, I am not advocating any forms of abuse; however, you have an obligation to ensure the safety of your family, including your child when the situation warrants.  Think about and discuss with other household members what needs to be done when dangerous situations require hard decisions to be made.  Be sure to consider the potential consequences of the actions that you may take to maintain operational security.

I’ll be honest: Raising a special-needs child is very stressful during normal times.  When the situation becomes abnormal, our stress level will elevate, no matter how prepared we may be.  Caring for someone who needs a higher level of care may cause a caregiver to direct a higher level of frustration towards that child than is warranted.  This is something that you should prepare for both mentally and spiritually.  Consult with your spouse, relatives, or other potential caregivers for respite time during emergencies.  Have times of prayer and spiritual reflection.  Write down your thoughts and feelings.  Be open to others about how you are feeling; don’t be afraid to talk about what is going on inside of your mind.  If you come to a point of wanting to harm your child, whether physically or mentally, do what it takes to remove yourself from the situation.

In Conclusion

This is by no means a plan that meets the need of many that care for children with special-needs.  I do hope that it can be of assistance for those who may not have considered what actions to take during emergency situations, or at least provides points to ponder upon.  Hopefully I can learn from the tips, ideas, and suggestions of others as well.  Please feel free to provide this information not only to those who care for special-needs children, but also to medical professionals, teachers, and others who encounter them.   The better that we parents are prepared, the better the outcome will be for our children when we do encounter a life-changing event.