Some ways of protecting our children seem obvious, like wearing a bike helmet or seat belt, but with sexual abuse, the path to protection isn't always so clear.
1. Most special needs children are teachable when it comes to safety issues. If they cannot communicate because of being non-verbal or are speech and language limited then give them a form of communication such as sign language, picture stories, drawing to be able to let adults know of their concerns or need for safety.
2. Teach special needs children concretely by using role playing, examples, real life situations, social stories. Teach them again and again the same concepts. They may need repeated examples and usage of strategies. With children with Autism, cognitive impairments, Down Syndrome, etc. make sure that you use social stories. Have them problem solve by talking through situations. Take them in public and show them how to stay near their trusted adult. Gently correct them when they try and wander or talk to strangers and then follow-up with the right responses or methods for interaction.
3. Talk to children often. Do not ignore the special needs child. It is very upsetting to hear how many deaf children dread going home from their deaf schools/mainstreamed schools because their parents cannot use sign language thus they are void of basic communication with a parent(s). This does not enable a child to be able to relay any fears or learn from their parents what they need to know about personal safety. Often, the school ends up being the sole source for information. Luckily, more and more parents are learning to use sign language, however there are still many that do not.
4. Teach children to use the phone and call 911 in an emergency. Sure this is not always an option, but many special children are capable of handling a phone, especially if one has the numbers keyed in already or a special logo to help the child know which button to press in an emergency.
5. Consider the use of temporary tattoos or ID bracelets when a child is out in public in case they are separated from their trusted adult. Also, carry a photo of your child every time you leave the house. If you and your child are separated it would helpful to have a photo to show law enforcement right away.