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How to Give CPR and First Aid to Children with Special Needs?


Accidents occur most unexpectedly, especially with children. Children with special needs are more vulnerable to injuries because they often have less control over their bodies. Children with special needs fall along a spectrum of care requirements – some require very little assistance while some require much more assistance. These children may struggle with communication, self-regulation, and primary care.

By learning CPR and first aid, you can always be prepared to handle an emergency arising in the case of children with special needs. American HealthCare Academy provides online CPR/First Aid combo courses for both medical professionals and people with no medical background. We understand your concerns while taking care of children with special needs. Hence, we highly recommend taking our online course which is super flexible and can be taken anytime, anywhere.

Why is First Aid training important for special needs children? 

  1. Specialized First Aid for children with special needs is provided so that the adults providing care can take all necessary precautions to ensure their safety. 
  1. An adult care provider must be able to assess the situation quickly in an emergency. They should be able to determine what special needs a child has. Only then they can provide the appropriate response and medical care. 
  1. When a child is seriously injured, they may be unable to communicate the problem to their carer, particularly if they do not speak or communicate in the same way that a typically developing child would. 

3 key objectives of administering CPR-First Aid to children with disability

In an emergency, the most important thing for carers or bystanders to do is to remain calm. Following are the 3 objectives of providing first aid to a child with special needs:

  1. Stop the bleeding to save a life.
  1. Avoid further harm by not moving a child after a fall to avoid spinal injury or elevating the head of an unconscious child.
  1. Concentrate on recovery by preventing shock with comforting words or giving blankets.

6 most common injuries in children and standard first aid measure 

The 6 most common types of injuries in children that can be treated with first aid and CPR are:

  1. Head injuries from a significant fall
  2. Burns
  3. Drowning
  4. Broken bones 
  5. Suffocation
  6. Car-related injuries

You must remember a few important things:

  1. Healthcare professionals must assess the situation calmly to determine the extent of the injury.
  2. Caregivers should make sure the area is safe and move the child to a more secure environment. If necessary, administer first aid, and seek further medical attention. Call 911 or drive the child to the nearest emergency care unit. 
  3. A well-stocked first-aid kit can aid in the effective response to common injuries and emergencies.
  4. Standard first aid guidelines for handling injuries:
  5. Stop bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Then put clean bandages.
  6. Immobilize broken limbs temporarily.
  7. Treat minor burns with cold water.
  8. Apply an antibiotic ointment on the wound. Then put a non-stick bandage on the wound.
  9. Anything beyond these precautions requires CPR and emergency medical attention. Dial 911 immediately.

Performing CPR on children with special needs

CPR guidelines for handling the disabled are as follows:

Hands-only CPR:

  1. Hands-only CPR is performed on a child by kneeling above the child. Place your hands on top of one another in the center of the victim’s chest. Then perform rapid chest compressions.
  1. If the child is small, only one hand may be used. The rescuer should compress the chest to a depth of about one-third of the total depth of the chest, i.e., 1.5 to 2 inches.
  1. Healthcare professionals should compress at a rate of 2 compressions per second or 120 compressions per minute.

CPR with rescue breathing:

  1. Caregivers should carefully check an unresponsive child. Watch out for signs of breathing. Listen for breath sounds and watch for the rise and fall of the chest for no more than 10 seconds. Caregivers must perform rescue breathing and chest compressions if the child is not breathing normally.
  1. Open the child’s airway by tilting their head backwards. Raise the chin and remove any visible objects from the child’s mouth.
  1. Put your mouth over the child’s mouth. Form a seal.
  1. Perform one or two rescue breaths – each lasting about one second.
  1. If the victim’s chest rises after the first breath, pause. You can stop rescue breathing in this case.
  1. Deliver the second rescue breath if the chest does not rise.
  1. The compressions to rescue breaths ratio of 15:2 should be maintained until EMS arrive or an automated external defibrillator (AED) is located and ready for use.

Using a defibrillator on someone sitting in a wheelchair

If the person sitting in the wheelchair is the one being defibrillated, they need to be on their back on the ground. So long as the pads can be placed on them, AED can be used. However, the defib pads must have a long enough cord.


Children with special needs are very vulnerable to injuries. When unforeseen circumstances arise, their physical health suffers the most. Therefore, preparing yourself beforehand to tackle emergencies will keep you a step ahead in time of need. Learn CPR/First Aid from American HealthCare Academy and keep your loved ones safe.

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