Services for People with Special Needs

Protecting people with sensory, motor, and intellectual disabilities from bullying, violence, and abuse
— and empowering them with self-advocacy skills


“Practicing in your class is the first time since I went blind that I feel really good.”

Practicing Heart Power from Kidpower
“Because I have severe cerebral palsy, people think I am helpless. Kidpower taught me that I am powerful!”

The Power to Adapt

Kidpower’s core safety and self-advocacy skills can all be adapted to use the strengths and abilities of each person to keep themselves safe and get help.
Focus on Possibilities Rather Than Limitations

Every student in Kidpower is unique, and adaptation is at the heart of our work for everyone. Kidpower instructors explore what people can do rather than focusing on what they cannot do. We have learned that it is crucial to avoid making assumptions based on how our students seem when we start. It is too easy to think that a young person who has a physical disability or a developmental delay is helpless.

Often children and youth with disabilities have triggers about learning new things. They might believe that they are helpless themselves and act in ways that make them seem much less capable than they actually are. Sometimes the people who know them the best will underestimate their ability to understand and to learn and are even surprised that their students can say “No” or “Stop” or “Help” appropriately.

Our instructors begin working with what our students show that they are able to do and then build a bridge from there, adapting to make the skill work for the student rather than trying to force the student to fit the skill. We look for possibilities and growth rather than focusing on limitations.

Build a Bridge Between Student’s Abilities and Their Safety

Most Kidpower skills practices can be easily adapted. For example:

If our students can’t see: We talk them through what they will be doing instead of showing them visually, or we get their permission to move their bodies to help them understand. We use language like, “show that you notice by turning your head” rather than telling them to “look.” We focus on using their hearing to notice problems.

If our students have trouble talking: We work with whatever communication devices they have available. We practice how they can use cards that explain to others what the problem is. We work with all the ways of communicating available to them.

If our students use a wheelchair: We say to “sit tall” instead of “stand tall” and practice skills sitting down. We show and practice Roll Away Power from potential safety problems instead of Walk Away Power. If we are teaching self-defense, we show Wheelchair Power, where they can use their wheelchair as a weapon to escape from an attack.

If our students have trouble hearing: We work with their communication devises or sign language interpreters and focus on having them use their sight to notice trouble. We have them sign, use written captions, draw, or act out skills vividly without speaking.

If our students can’t move one part of their bodies: We change show how using other parts of their bodies or even just their imaginations can make the skills work. For example, we have a one-handed Trash Can for waving away hurting words if a two-handed trash can won’t work. If Mouth Closed Power to stop yourself from being safe with your mouth won’t work because a student cannot close her or his mouth, then we change the name to “Mouth Safe” Power.

If our students have difficulty understanding concepts: We keep our language very simple. We show them pictures or act out demonstrations of very concrete examples in situations that are familiar to them.

If our students can’t move or speak: We have the people who help them practice the skills for them, just as they help to meet their other needs.

If our students have trouble being safe with their emotions: We teach them and their adults how to use Calm Down Power and other tools for managing their triggers.

"People Safety" Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities

Use our “Bill of Rights” to empower people with disabilities (and their caregivers – and anyone else!) with these 10 “Rights” to be safe from abuse, bullying, harassment,  violence, prejudice, and other maltreatment –  and to develop safe and strong relationships that enrich their lives.


Enter your name and email address below to download this 1-page People Safety Bill of Rights handout for free – then check your email inbox (or your spam folder) for the secure download link!

Kidpower trainings are inclusive for people with disabilities

People of all ages with disabilities or other special needs are especially vulnerable to risks of bullying, abuse, prejudice, violence, and other maltreatment. Thanks to the involvement and expertise of many people with disabilities and their advocates, Kidpower services and resources have helped to protect the personal safety of hundreds of thousands of children, teens, and adults with special needs. The difficult life challenges these individuals face include having developmental and intellectual disabilities; having sensory impairments with their sight, vision, or other senses; having mobility impairments; being on the autism spectrum; or having mental health issues, often from past trauma.

Kidpower Addresses Increased Risk Factors for Children with Disabilities

Kidpower provides protective knowledge, skills, and actions for educators to help reduce the negative effects of students’:

  • Misunderstanding of what constitutes maltreatment
  • Limited communication skills
  • Dependence on others to meet their needs
  • Social isolation and loneliness

Learn more about Risk Factors
Learn more about Kidpower Skills as Protective Factors

Teaching social safety and protection skills for people with disabilities

Practicing how to set boundaries.

Our workshops are tailored to work with the strengths of each student as an individuals. We make adaptations for how different people’s bodies and minds work, focusing on what they can do, rather than what they cannot not. We teach the full spectrum of Social Safety skills including:

  • Being and acting aware
  • Setting boundaries
  • Staying safe from bullying or verbal attack
  • Getting help
  • Staying safe while riding public transit;
  • Making safe choices with support tools such as canes, service dogs, and wheelchairs
  • Learning effective physical self-defense skills without being able to see the target or while seated in a wheelchair.

We work with participants and their supporters to identify their strengths and then to work with those strengths to stay safe. Thousands of students of all cognitive and physical abilities have found our services to be relevant, interesting, and well-suited for their own ways of moving, thinking, perceiving, and communicating.

Our workshops offer a safe and secure environment for “learning by doing” through role-play and positive examples. We focus on what people have the power to do, not on what they can’t do, and we have fun while developing powerful and practical skills. We work with partner organizations and schools to find funding so that their students and participants can have the opportunity to learn these skills, and we provide Training of Professionals so that educators, social workers, and other staff can integrate our program into their curriculum and activities

What training and educational resources are available?

We provide prevention education and resource materials for teaching social safety and protection skills to people with disabilities of all ages. We work with students in special education programs and participants in organizations serving people with disabilities as well as educators, health care providers, mental health professionals, public safety officials, youth group leaders, and parents from around the world including Romania, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, Nigeria, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Canada, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the US. People report great benefits about how the Kidpower curriculum and training methods have helped them to protect and empower the children, teens, and adults with special needs in their personal and professional lives.

1. In locations where we have Kidpower instructors, we provide training of professionals, parents, and students in schools and organizations serving young people with disabilities.

2. Our three-day Kidpower Skills for Child Protection Advocates Institute provides an in-depth opportunity to learn and practice Kidpower’s intervention, advocacy, and social safety skills and to apply these to support young people of all abilities in your family, school, and organization.

3. Our extensive online Library has over 200 articles,  videos. handouts, and other resources. Here are the most used resources for people with disabilities:

4. Our RelationsSafe Books are inclusive of young people of all abilities and contain inspiring stories, clear examples, and step-by-step directions in how to use Kidpower’s advocacy, intervention, and personal safety strategies and skills for both the general public and professionals:

5. Our cartoon-illustrated books make it easy and entertaining to discuss and practice these essential skills with children and youth and are extremely popular both with individuals with special needs and typically developing youth:

6.  Consider joining Kidpower for International Child Protection Month to honor, inspire,and support adult leadership in keeping kids of all abilities safe from harm and empowering them with skills for take charge of their well being. We provide important free online resources you can use and share during September and throughout the year.

7. If you don’t have a Kidpower center or trained instructor close to your community, consider setting up a new one and training as an instructor. We also train teachers and other professionals to include Social Safety Skills in their programs and schools so that people everywhere can learn how to protect their emotional and physical safety.

Comments From Professionals Serving People With Disabilities

I work with families raising children who are deaf or hard of hearing and who face higher rates of victimization than typically-hearing kids.. Through our partnership with Kidpower, we now share information with each new family we meet about prevention strategies they can use with babies to teens. I can’t recommend this organization enough in its wise and calm approach to helping all kids develop the life-long ability to set boundaries, to listen to their own intuition, and to put safety first. Our parents say they are grateful for Kidpower’s resources, and so are we.
~ Sara Kennedy, Hands and Voices Program Director

“Kidpower ‘People Safety’ skills are absolutely crucial for the well-being of our consumers, who face a much higher risk of bullying, abuse, and other forms of violence due to their special needs.”
~ Mitchell Eckstein, CCS Social Worker, San Mateo County Health Department

“The Kidpower program far exceeds other programs we have reviewed because it presents real situations to students and allows the positive experience of how to deal with them successfully…The benefits of the training are immense. We have received tremendous positive feedback from our staff and have been delighted with the widespread results we have already seen.”
~ Hal Ledbetter, Senior Director, Special Education, Santa Cruz County Office of Education

“From our different perspectives as a public school special education teacher and an administrator working with students with severe, multiple disabilities, we’d like to express our enthusiastic support for the Kidpower program!”
~ Barbara Berman, Principal, & Eloise Lovelace, Teacher, Contra Costa County Office of Education

“As many of our clients are seniors, and all are visually impaired, fighting the fear that can come along with frailty and disability is a daily challenge. Your workshops spoke directly to that challenge and assisted our clients in feeling stronger and more confident in themselves and their ability to enjoy the surrounding world safely.”
~ Sarah Conner, Education/Recreation, Santa Clara Valley Blind Center

“I felt confident that [Kidpower] understood our population and would address their needs. I was not disappointed…Everyone felt positive, appreciated, and empowered.”
~ Flora Kupferman, Special Education Consultant, Bureau of Jewish Education

“I have seen firsthand how Kidpower’s distinctive training method brings about significant, positive, and practical change, both in the skills of our clients as well as in the skills of our staff supporting them.”
~ Diane Smith, Associate Director, Kainos Home & Training Center

“If I were asked to come up with one example of an extremely successful, meaningful, relevant, engaging, and fun workshop, the first thing that would come to mind would be the Kidpower workshop…Every person deserves the right to be able to wake up in the morning and have the confidence that he/she will be safe in their environment. I believe the Kidpower workshop gave them the skills to feel this confidence.”
~ Lisa Halperin, Supervising Therapist, Alameda County CCS

“Programs like yours play a valuable role in providing organizations such as DCARA with important information which will benefit the communities we serve…We were able to gain both the knowledge and practice of various concepts of personal safety and self-protection which can then be shared with the deaf and hard of hearing community.”
~ LaRonda Zupp, Program Manager, Deaf Counseling, Advocacy, & Referral Agency

“[Kidpower] makes it obvious that everyone can take control of a situation no matter the difficulties they face or the disabilities they have…. Their diverse ability to work with not only our staff but with our clients is well shows the strong foundation their program is build on and the effectiveness of the tools they use to teach.”
~ Soheila Razban, Director of Adult Services, Abilities United

“Kidpower’s skills and methodology are particularly relevant for Hope staff and consumers, who deserve these skills both to keep themselves safe from violence and abuse and also to communicate clearly and effectively to build the strongest possible relationships in the workplace, at home, and with peers.”
~ Lori Arnberg, Director, Central District, Hope Services

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