In recognition of February as Safety Awareness Month, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma offered a three-part workshop series over physical safety, internet safety and self-awareness for teens and adults with Down syndrome.
DSACO kicked off the workshop series in February to foster independent living skills and encourage teens and adults with Down syndrome to advocate for themselves in their everyday lives.
“These courses are so important for our young adults, because it gives them the confidence and knowledge to appropriately address issues of safety that they may encounter. It gives us, as parents, a sense of peace and security for them,” said Marji Robison, mother of self-advocate Breana Robison.
The first class was hosted by Lt. Barney Wayne, of the Oklahoma City Police Department Sex Crimes Unit, who taught self-advocates how to differentiate between “good touch” and “bad touch,” and Sgt. Felix Valadez, police Homeless Outreach, who taught basic self-defense skills. Self-advocates learned a variety of skills, including basic self-defense techniques for if they were to be grabbed on the shirt, on the wrists or at the shoulders. Self-advocates were then able to practice the techniques with Valadez by practicing being in each situation.
“As parents, we owe it to our kids to educate them with accurate information so they can protect themselves from potentially becoming victims of a crime,” Wayne said.
Wayne focused on the importance of standing up for oneself and speaking up when a person feels uncomfortable. He encouraged each self-advocate to be confident and direct when telling someone to “stop!”
“I learned that it is OK to tell people to stop if I do not like what they are doing to me, even if they are my friend,” self-advocate Heather Hancock-Blackburn said. “My favorite part is that I know how to be safe now.”
Valadez discussed the appropriate times to use self-defense and brought a punching bag for the self-advocates to practice different striking techniques.
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