Devising road safety lessons and activities for pupils with SEN

Consider pupils abilities to understand risk

On the other teaching resources pages, you'll find information on the general abilities of children of different ages to perceive and understand risk and make safe choices. Advice on these pages is based on 'normal' development of these abilities. Therefore it's essential to consider SEN pupils' abilities to perceive and understand risks and make safe choices, in order to decide which safety messages to teach.

Consider risks faced by pupils now, and risks they may face in the future
It's important, as when delivering road safety education to any children, to consider the actual risks they face in their everyday lives, and how pupils' learning difficulties and disabilities may heighten those risks. For example, you may have a large number of pupils, including some with ADHD who are impulsive and easily distracted, who walk to school, and have to negotiate fast, busy roads on the way. In this case, providing effective teaching about the risks posed by fast traffic and the importance of walking safely in a way that is accessible and relevant for pupils with ADHD (as well as working with your local authority to try to achieve safety measures on the roads) should be a priority.

You should also try to consider what risks pupils with SEN may face in the future. For example, pupils moving up to secondary school may start to walk and cycle independently more often and may encounter new pressures to act dangerously. Lessons should take this into account. Some pupils with SEN may have previously had limited opportunity for independent travel and exploration, but these opportunities may increase as they get older, so they still need to be equipped with an understanding of how to keep themselves safe. Effective road safety education may help a child with SEN gain independence and mobility.

Consider what teaching methods will be most effective
As when teaching any subject to pupils with SEN, it is important to have an understanding of what is meaningful for those pupils and therefore what teaching methods they are most likely to respond to. This is particularly important for children with severe learning difficulties.[1] Many children with SEN will respond to clear instructions, with defined goals or rewards, as long as these goals or rewards are based on what is relevant to them.[2] It?s also crucial to consider any limitations of pupils' communication skills, and ensure that teaching is accessible for all pupils involved, if appropriate by using alternative teaching methods such as role-play and visuals.

Plan classroom and practical education
When educating any child on walking and cycling safely, the most effective teaching combines both classroom-based learning and practical roadside training. Practical training has been shown to be particularly effective for many children with learning difficulties, helping them to relate road safety rules and skills to a real-life context, and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own safety. [3] However, it is crucial to consult with your local council's road safety officer on the needs of your pupils and ensure that training can be run safely. To find details of your local road safety officer click here. You should also consult with parents, carers (as below) and your local authority's SEN specialist. Training for any pupils can be labour-intensive, but may be even more so for pupils with SEN who may require individual supervision and teaching, depending on the nature of their learning difficulty or disability. For this reason it requires thorough planning.

Involve parents and carers' and get them to teach road safety too
It's important to involve parents and carers in planning lessons and activities, particularly for children with severe learning difficulties and disabilities. You should consult them on: how their child uses roads; the main risks they perceive the child facing now and in the future; any problems or successes they have had in the past when teaching the child about road safety and other safety topics; and what teaching techniques they know to be most effective for their child. It may also be appropriate to directly involve parents or carers in any practical roadside training. Many parents will have already been teaching road safety to their children from an early age, so can offer valuable input on the abilities of their child and the most effective teaching methods.

Involving parents and carers has the additional benefit of reinforcing the importance of them teaching road safety to children outside school on an ongoing basis. Effective road safety teaching in schools should be constantly reinforced by all adults who use roads with the children.[4] It is particularly important with children with SEN to ensure that road safety messages taught inside and outside school are consistent, so it's crucial to establish and maintain effective communications with parents on what's being taught.

Adapt lesson ideas according to pupils' needs
Some advice on teaching road safety to children with different types of SEN is given below. You can use this advice to adapt lesson ideas and activities on this website for 5-8 year-olds, 8-11 year-olds, 11-15 year-olds and 15-18 year-olds. Depending on the needs and abilities of pupils, you may find you can adapt lesson ideas for the age group you are teaching, or from the age group below. You may find it useful to write a long-term plan, and targets, for teaching road safety into pupils? Individual Education Plans.

For children with severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties, you should consult and work with your local authority's special education needs advisor to develop appropriate lessons.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Create, and teach the children to develop, personal routines, which are based on children's actual behaviour and which they can use in their everyday lives to keep them safe. For example, if they are driven to school, develop a routine they can use to: get into the car; do up their seatbelt; check siblings are belted up too; play a game or activity on the journey so they don't distract the driver (e.g. see how many red cars they can spot); get out of the car on the pavement side; and walk into school safely. If they regularly walk to a local park or friend's house, create a routine for that journey, including spotting and avoiding hazards and choosing safe places to cross on the way.
  • Use clear, reasonable and specific requests to teach safety rules.For example, ' You should always stop and look and listen for traffic before crossing any road. Only cross when you're sure there's nothing coming. If you step into the road without looking and listening, a car could hit you and hurt or even kill you. rather than It's important to always cross roads sensibly.
  • Set easily understood boundaries, to define what is and isn't appropriate behaviour in terms of putting yourself and others in danger. For example, ask the class to name things they've seen people doing on roads that are safe or dangerous, putting them into the two categories on the board. Then go through with the class the possible outcomes of each action to demonstrate why each is safe or dangerous. You could use slides from our downloadable powerpoint presentation (aimed at pupils of average development age 8-11, 11-15, 15-18) to help you do this.
  • Employ new, innovative teaching methods to create and maintain interest. It may be useful to use role play and visual tools such as models to illustrate the messages you are teaching. Some pupils with ADHD may respond better to visual or movement-based teaching, rather than verbal communication alone.
  • Use one-to-one communication, and remove disruptions or distractions * where possible.* It can be helpful sitting children with ADD or ADHD at the front of the class and engaging different pupils, including those with ADD or ADHD, individually in discussions about risk, taking care to relate it to their real lives. [5]

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Help children 'generalise' safety skills or rules, encouraging them to apply what they're taught to a range of situations when using roads. For example, teach that the Green Cross Code should be used when crossing any road, no matter what. Then talk through different scenarios and settings (using pictures or toy people and cars or stories) asking children what they should do in each case, to demonstrate the Code should be used in each. Some of the settings could include pressures on the children to act dangerously or disobey the Code, such as a friend calling to them from over the road, or being in a rush to get to school on time. It is also important to consider and highlight exceptions to rules, such as emergency service vehicles going through red lights.
  • Use practical training, which is easier to generalise than class-room teaching, as it is based in a context that is closer to real life. If possible, provide this training on the routes that pupils actually use.
  • Explain the importance of safety rules in literal terms, rather than by putting them into a social context of what's acceptable and what will be viewed favourably. For example, explain specifically that failing to follow safety rules can lead to death or serious injury, rather than talking about being 'good', 'sensible' or 'naughty'.
  • Make sure your instructions are clear and complete. For example, the following could be misunderstood if taken literally, as it may be by a pupil with ASD: You should always stop and look and listen for traffic before crossing any road. If you don't, a car could hit you and hurt or even kill you. This could be understood to mean that as long as you stop, look and listen, you'll be safe. It misses out the step of 'Only cross if there are no vehicles coming.'


  • Teach the dangers of taking chances - children with dyspraxia may have particular difficulty judging the distance between them and approaching traffic. However, it's important to teach all children that it's difficult for anyone (even adults) to judge the speed at which traffic is approaching. It's made even harder by many drivers breaking speed limits. Emphasise that children shouldn't cross unless they are certain the way is clear. Ideally, they should plan routes that make use of traffic-light controlled crossings or zebra crossings, although on the latter children should always wait until traffic has come to a complete stop. (If routes to your school don't have crossings, you can contact your local council to find out if they can be put in place.) To demonstrate the dangers of taking chances, and of crossing roads with fast traffic, you could measure out stopping distances of vehicles travelling at different speeds. You could also discuss dangerous things that some drivers do that mean they might not be able to spot a child in the road (e.g. speeding, talking on a mobile, driving while tired or drunk) and why the children think drivers take these risks.
  • Teach the dangers of staying well away from traffic, especially fast traffic.Children with dyspraxia may be at particular risk of stumbling into the road. This is particularly dangerous on faster roads, where drivers are less likely to be able to stop in time. It's important to teach all children the importance of using safe routes where they are available, particularly footpaths that are set away from traffic, and routes that make use of crossings and avoid fast roads. You could also work with the children to draw a big map of the area, plotting safe routes to and from the school and linking homes to local amenities.
  • Help children develop strategies for telling left from right ' many children may have difficulty telling left from right so it may be a useful exercise to get all pupils to come up with their own ideas for ways of remembering left from right, such as wearing different coloured gloves or shoelaces (red representing right), holding up their forefingers and thumbs at right-angles to see which hand spells 'L', or visualising which hands they hold their knife and fork in. Encourage pupils to stop and think about which is which before following an instruction, and to check with an adult or friend if they're not sure.
  • Communicate your teaching to specialists working with pupils children with dyspraxia may be seeing specialists to help develop certain skills, particularly the physical movements involved in daily tasks. If possible, get in touch with these specialists (via pupils' families) to tell them about the road safety lessons you're running, and to help them reinforce your teaching and incorporate road safety into their sessions. For example, specialists may be able to run exercises to help children carry out the physical actions needed to cross a road safely.


  • Use practical training, role play, diagrams and other visual aidsto demonstrate how to make safe choice on roads, which dyslexic children are likely to find more memorable and easier to understand than written rules. For example, get children to act out different scenes involving them experiencing pressures to use act dangerously. They could act out two alternative endings for each scene  one where they act safely and one where they act dangerously. You could also use pictures and diagrams from Brake's powerpoint presentations (for 8-11s, 11-15s and 15-18s).
  • Help children develop strategies for telling left from right (as above, under dyspraxia).

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[1] Phil Goss, Meaning-led learning for pupils with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties (British Journal of Special Education, 2006)


[3] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[4] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[5] Advice on ?management techniques? for adults working with children with ADD/ADHD from and

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