Safety tips for young people with learning differences
At Transitions, we take great care to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students through classroom instruction and the practical application of those lessons. As our students gain their independence, it is imperative that we send them out with safety being at the forefront of their minds – whether they are at Transitions, at home in their communities, or traveling. This takes instruction and repetition as students with learning differences process information differently. Reinforcing safety with them in various ways has proven very helpful and provided students the tools and confidence that they can keep themselves safe. As many of our students are leaving campus for the summer, we want to make sure they are using the safety tips that we have provided to them over the course of their studies at Transitions.
In 2019, I had the opportunity to train and become a self-defense instructor through a program called R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) for women. I also began studying martial arts this year. I have not only enjoyed this experience, but it helped me gain skills that could potentially save my life. One of the most important things that I have learned is to defend with my mind before my body with the primary goal of escaping to safety. The goal is not to hurt or fight with someone, although you will learn techniques for that as you advance in martial arts. Use your mind to learn some tips that will prevent you from getting into dangerous situations. I highly encourage every student to take a self-defense training course. Here are some practical tools that students, and anyone, can use to stay safe:
- When you are going out, try to stay in well-lit areas with many people around. If an area is well-lit with other people around, it is easier for witnesses to see or call for help.
- Travel with others when you can. There is truth to the old adage, “there is safety in numbers.” The more people who are with you, the more possible protection you have. It makes your trip more fun as well!
- Carry as little valuables as possible. Expensive jewelry, cash, credit cards, and electronic devices are valuable. Avoid carrying these items if you can. If you must carry these items, keep them in a location that is not visible to passersby.
- Check your car before you enter and drive away. As you approach your vehicle, make sure that no one has broken into your vehicle. Avoid unlocking your car remotely until you are close enough to the car to enter. Keep your keys ready in your hand and as soon as you enter your vehicle, lock the doors, and start the vehicle before checking your phone, texting, etc.
- Be mindful about information that you post online.
- Personal and identifiable Information We live in a world where social media has become mainstream. Be aware of the information you post online. Leave off your address, phone number, date of birth, credit card information, social security number, and other information on your platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.). If you are shopping online or have to enter any of this information online for any reason, check the reviews about the website, business, company, or establishment that is asking for this information. You can also speak to people you may know who have used it before. Have their customers had issues with identity theft or fraud? Have they had issues with strangers contacting them or trying to obtain their personal information? If you cannot see reviews or get a sense of whether others feel comfortable entering information for the company the business is likely illegitimate. Find another entity for your needs.
- We don’t need your travel details A lot of people like to post information about their vacations and travels. People like to post their exact location and the dates that they are away. Don’t give away this information. Keep the geotags off of your photos on Instagram and anywhere else online. You can include a vague description in your captions about your trip. I would suggest focusing on enjoying your moment there and then posting pictures with those details once you come back home. You don’t want to make it easy for random strangers to use the internet to find you or break into your home while you are away.
- Passwords and pins Look around you at people while you enter passwords or pins into a device. Conceal the keyboard and screen with your hand if you can. Never give this information to anyone.
- Meeting people online Many people these days are dating and connecting with people online. It is so important to take precautions when doing this. See if you can video chat with them before meeting them. Have them meet your family or friends online before meeting in person. Let someone in your life know where you are going when you arrange to meet in person for the first time and meet them in a group setting and always in a very public place. Think about what their intentions are. Are they asking you for money or other things? If so, do not send money, gifts, or personal information to them until you have had the opportunity to get to know them.
- Prioritize being safe over being polite Our society often teaches us to respond when someone is talking to us even if that person is a stranger. Often times with no ill intent, we are taught not to say no or speak up when we feel unsafe or uncomfortable when being taught social etiquette. There are situations that you may find yourself around someone who may make you feel uncomfortable. I want to encourage you to protect yourself before worrying about others’ feelings. Don’t respond to strangers if they approach you or talk to you. This is where the phrase “don’t talk to strangers” comes from. Unfortunately, there may be situations where people we love and trust might make us feel uncomfortable or unsafe as well. I want to encourage you to speak up about it and do what you can to distance yourself from them. Tell others about it. This is not an excuse to be unkind, but it is permission for you to stand up for yourself.
- Public Transportation
- Taxis or ride apps Let someone who you trust know if you’re taking a taxi or getting a ride with an app like Uber or Lyft. If you are taking a taxi, take a picture of the ID in the back seat of the vehicle with the number, the driver’s name, and their headshot. Keep this for yourself to report it if there is a problem but also share it with a trusted person in your life so they can give the information to the police as well if something goes wrong. Don’t take the taxi if it doesn’t have this identification. Ride apps usually allow you to share your location with someone. Share your ride with your trusted person. Check the reviews of your driver on the app.
- Buses, trains, or subways Sit by the exit if you are taking the bus or subway. You can move your seat if anyone around you is making you uncomfortable. Get off at an earlier stop if you ever feel unsafe. Find an employee and let them know you are feeling unsafe. Your life is more important than getting to your destination at the time that you planned.
- If you want to learn how to defend yourself physically or use a weapon, get training! Take a self-defense class so that you are equipped to escape quickly from an attacker! The best defense is a good offense, be prepared and always try to avoid any physical confrontation.
- Do not blame yourself if you are attacked. You are a survivor! You are never to blame for being targeted; your attacker bears the responsibility for their actions! These tips are simply tools to help you to take ownership of your safety.