Fire Drills

Fire Drills When my son was in first grade, he refused to go to school one day because he knew that there would be a fire drill.  I finally got Connor into the building, but he was clearly terrified.  When I picked him up that afternoon, I asked him how his day went, and he calmly told me, “My teacher ’splained it to me, Mom. A drill is just PRACTICE!” In other words, my son hadn’t known the difference between a drill and an actual event. 

As his mother, I was ashamed to realize that I had sent Connor into what he thought would be an inferno of unspeakable terror. In hindsight, he was being extraordinarily brave, not difficult. But I also realized that it was unacceptable to have have a child think even for a second that it would be okay to walk into a burning building.  My husband and I began preparing our family for emergencies the next day.

The first step was to talk to Connor’s teachers, who agreed to give him a heads up a day before a scheduled drill.  This made feel Connor feel more in control and less anxious about participating. The teachers also agreed to let him cover his ears during the alarm. It would make the noise more tolerable for him, but wouldn’t drown out the alarm entirely.

The next step was to begin practicing at home.  We took Connor through all the steps of how to stop, drop and roll if his clothing caught on fire; how to leave the house and go to a safe meeting spot; and how to crouch down beneath  the smoke. We had a few challenges because Connor always felt like he had to stop, drop and roll before leaving the house (and again after he got to our meeting place).  He made us practice daily for about a week and a half, and my husband and I generated quite a few neighborly snickers at the sight of us stopping, dropping and rolling on the island in our cul-de-sac.

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L. Mae Wilkinson
Quiet advocate, volunteer parent mentor. Semi-retired corporate marketing and management consultant.
L. Mae Wilkinson

autismisnottheboss

Quiet advocate, volunteer parent mentor. Semi-retired corporate marketing and management consultant.

18 thoughts on “Fire Drills

  • July 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm
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    it’s fine, how were you to know he thought the drill was the real thing? everyday mistakes happen, don’t beat yourself up about it. you’re a great mother. 🙂

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  • July 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm
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    aw, poor little kid.

    It’s good that you went over it with him at home. you sound like a great mom.

    <3

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  • July 16, 2009 at 12:04 am
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    Aw it’s kind of a heartwarming story to me.. It’s great how you would practice at home with Connor.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm
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    aw thats so cute
    i wonder what he must have been thinking and feeling when he
    thought you were trying to make him
    go into what he thought was a building about to be set on fire
    poor baby
    but im glad he got everything all down

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  • July 15, 2009 at 7:53 pm
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    My brother has autism, mental retardation, cp, and bipolar disorder so I know how bad you feel when you make a mistake over something like that.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 7:30 pm
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    This reminds me of that story about the girl who had some sort of blood disease and needed blood. After finding out he was a match they asked her little brother to donate and he agreed. Later on while donate the parents realized the boy thought he was giving his sister ALL his blood and was going to die. It’s sort of sweet to think he was willing to die for his sister but scary to think he thought his parents were okay with him dying. lol

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  • July 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm
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    @jeannicol – I’m a nanny for three kids ages 5 and 3, and ever since the big storms we had here in WI a couple weeks ago I’ve really been wanting to start practicing with the kids. But I don’t know how to o about doing so with such young children.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm
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    @jeannicol – I’m a nanny for three kids ages 5 and 3, and ever since the big storms we had here in WI a couple weeks ago I’ve really been wanting to start practicing with the kids. But I don’t know how to o about doing so with such young children.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm
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    I was in advance placement all through school, so I don’t really remember the “autistic” children … if there were any … in my schools. Well, all except for when I lived in Ohmaha, NE for a year. There was a boy in my class who was autistic, and easily frightened. I think we were 9 or 10 at the time. I distinctly remember walking up to him and holding his hand the entire way through the school because he didn’t like the loud noise. I gues I never really put two and two together until I got older that h was different.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 6:42 am
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    As a teacher I would do social stories about ‘fire drill’ – always helped! This story would always be in social story books given to children the summer before they started school. It would also help that the child with autism would be the first one out the door too, the loud bell wasn’t quite so bad outside!

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  • July 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm
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    @trebleclef402@xanga – hehe, me too.  although my first day of 3rd grade in a new school was not all that it was cracked up to be…do to a fire alarm.

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  • July 14, 2009 at 1:42 pm
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    When I was in elementary school the autistic boy in our class would be called to the office before the fire drill was to occur and then he was allowed to pull the alarm to make it less startling for him.

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