By Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D., author of Grandparenting a Child with Special Needs

It is a great responsibility to care for a grandchild, particularly one with special needs. Keeping any grandchild safe, no matter what age or special problem can be a great challenge. One of the things I did when my children and my grandchildren were small was to do a daily or nightly check to see if there was anything that could cause harm.

As a practicing pediatrician, I have had patients swallow a razor blade, safety pin, dishwasher powder, bleach, cigarettes, and alcohol. Some caused considerable damage and required extensive surgery. Now, button or disk batteries and magnetic balls are being swallowed.

Open windows without screens, open doors leading onto second story balconies, garages, swimming pools, and even fish ponds can be dangerous.

Medicines in a bedside table, a purse, or cabinet may look like candy and be ingested by a child.

Car seats need to be appropriate for a child’s age and size and properly installed. In the UK, requirements can be found for car seats at

Peanuts, hard candies, carrots, cubes of cheese, hotdogs, and popcorn can all cause choking in a small child or one with swallowing problems. Knowing how to give a child CPR can be life-saving. In the UK, on-line courses are offered at CPR is particularly important to know if a child has a seizure disorder. Posting the telephone number of your grandchild’s doctor by the phone, plus the numbers of an ambulance, the nearest hospital, and the poison center could be life-saving. Remember, too, that if you have to seek medical care for your grandchild, a letter from the child’s parents may be needed to give you permission to act for them.

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are important for every home as are fireplace guards and strong enclosures around wall heaters. Playpens, gates on playrooms and at the top of stairs can be life-saving. Remember to check toys for removable parts that can be swallowed. Some pacifiers can be pulled apart and having one on a string around the neck could cause strangulation.

Hot water heaters should be turned down below 120 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 49 degrees Celsius), particularly if a grandchild has spina bifida or lacks sensation in the lower extremities. Electrical outlets can be covered with special covers and frayed cords should be replaced.

Always be aware of where the child is and what he or she is doing. Once you get into the habit of making sure your house, garage, and yard are safe, then you can sit back and enjoy your grandchild!

 Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.