In honor of Autism Acceptance Month this April, I am writing today to share a personal story from my past and safety resources Kidpower now provides thanks to and for people on the autism spectrum.

Over 50 years ago, when I was a student at UCLA, I worked intensively at the Neuropsychiatric Institute with a child with severe autism for almost two years. Although this six-year-old boy, who I knew as “Larry”, had no speech, he taught me lessons that shaped my life.

Hand in hand, we wandered the UCLA campus, exploring and enjoying seeing the world from our completely different perspectives.

Tiny step by tiny step, Larry taught me how to teach him to point to what he wanted instead of grabbing it, and how to give gentle hugs, which improved his relationship with his caregivers at the clinic. He taught me how to teach him to stand up, walk calmly, and hold my hand when we crossed the street, instead of suddenly throwing himself to the ground. What we learned together made both of us safer.

In our time together, I gained profound life lessons about learning, differences, and connection. Many years later, the lessons I learned with Larry inspired the core of Kidpower’s skills-based, connection-centered, and adaptive Positive Practice Teaching Method. We connect with individuals where they are and build on their strengths – and that is what makes our methodology and safety skills curriculum so effective for people of all ages and abilities.

Since we began in 1989, Kidpower has become stronger and more effective thanks to the skills, strengths, and contributions of many people on the autism spectrum. We look forward to sharing some of the their stories with you soon.

As a result, we provide training and educational materials for many families, organizations, and schools worldwide to help their children and adults who are on the autism spectrum to stay safe.

Our Safetypowers: Advocacy, Safety, and Independence for People With Disabilities Resource Page describes our Power to Adapt approach and includes a number of links.

Our Safetypowers Program for teaching teens and adults with communication disabilities provides video lessons and handouts in English and Spanish in our Online Learning Center – and is free thanks to funding from Ability Central.

Our Safetypowers Safety Signals are simple drawings, gestures, and words to communicate core emotional and personal safety skills. These Safety Signals were initially created for teaching adults as well as children with little or no speech. They are so useful that we now include Safety Signals in all our programs for people of all abilities. The Safety Signals charts can be downloaded for free – and we have an ebook available for $10.

Our Little Books for Literal People article has examples of how to create simple personal books addressing specific safety issues both for children and adults.

In addition, many of our resources for the general public are used by parents, caregivers, and educators of children who think very literally and/or who have difficulty with behavior regulation. For example:

Our Starting Strong Mini-Lessons in the Kidpower Online Learning Center has five-minute videos with puppets and cartoons teaching personal safety skills for young children – and is also in English and Spanish and is free thanks to funding from the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

Our Seven Positive Strategies for Managing Aggressive Behavior in Young Children article has helped families, child care centers, and early childhood development programs deal with this difficult issue.

Please share this information with people and groups that might find it helpful. If you have questions about specific issues or would like to organize one of our online workshops, please contact us at


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Published: April 9, 2024   |   Last Updated: April 18, 2024

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.