BIC’s play safe! be safe! Program Utilized as Fire Safety Education Resource for Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Children and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are 74% more likely to be treated for any injury, and the rate of burn injuries is 60% higher than in the general population matched for age. To ensure that fire safety education is readily available to all audiences, BIC’s play safe! be safe! program, which was developed over two decades ago for children in preschool, is also being utilized to teach children of all ages who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Recognizing the need for fire safety education for children with I/DD, Dr. Robert Cole, facilitator of play safe! be safe! and President of Community Health Strategies, introduced the program to faculty, staff and parents at the Cooke School in New York City. The Cooke School educates students with diverse developmental disabilities, from early childhood through young adulthood with innovative programming and intensive, experiential instruction that is designed to foster student independence, preparing their students to discover and fulfill their life goals. As a result, The Cooke School has begun to implement the program into their elementary classrooms and also with older children.

“Play safe! is a wonderful fit for us,” said Virginia Skar, CCC-SLP, Chair of Adaptive Services at Cooke Center for Learning and Development in New York City. “It provides appropriate learning objectives, and the content is excellent, especially the breakdown of techniques into manageable steps. These are good for teaching anyone.”

Children and individuals with I/DD often have a limited capacity to understand the chain of events that turns a small match flame into a dangerous house fire. Despite this, many adults expect children to act appropriately when it comes to fire; however, the reality is that they are not developmentally able to do so. BIC’s play safe! be safe! Fire Safety Education Program takes a different approach and focuses on teaching children easy-to-understand lessons that help them learn what action to take in dangerous situations. As an example, the program teaches children to tell an adult if they find matches, lighters, or other fire safety hazards, which helps them learn to differentiate items that are safe to play with versus items that they need to stay away from. This provides the basis of education for children with developmental disabilities.

“Teaching fire safety skills to children and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities empower them and helps them see themselves as capable and active,” said Dr. Cole. “Through the play safe! be safe! program, our goal is to provide education on proper fire safety protocol and give individuals opportunities to practice the skills to help them develop confidence in their abilities. The complete and ready-to-use kit uses a multi-faceted approach that recognizes cognition, includes sensory experiences and encourages individuals to practice and reinforce the skills, making fire safety education accessible and retainable for all.”

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Slayer D., Garnick D., Kubisiak J., Bishop C., Gilden D., Hakim R. (2006). Injury prevalence among children and adolescents with mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 4:212-223.
Based on Medicaid claims data in 1999 from 26 states for persons 1 – 20 with MR and a comparable group without MR. the 26 states were those that had high quality, detailed claims data. Overall examined prevalence of injury for 8,406,369 people, 0.6% (49,775) with MR. In 1999, 37% of those with MR and 23% of those without MR were treated for an injury, and increase of 74% or a factor of 1.74. The rates of injury for those with MR are higher for both males and females and all age groups between 1 – 20.

Sherrard J., Tonge, B., Ozanne-Smith J. (2001). Injury in young people with intellectual disability: descriptive epidemiology. Injury Prevention, 7:56-61.
1. Australian study of 185 children and youth ages 5-29 with IQ < 70. Based on parental and professional care provider reports and medical record injury data. Data compared to age matched general population data. 2. Fatal injury rates were 8 times higher among those with intellectual disability than the general population. 3. Overall nonfatal injury rates were 2 times higher and the injuries were more likely to be severe. 4. Those with ID had more home injury than the general population (at least twice the rate.