Interview with Sharon Schack on Poison Control

Sharon Schack


I have been working in the field of education for 26 years. I have experience teaching students in grades K-12 with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism. I currently serve as the Dean of Students in a public school for students with disabilities in grades K-12. Our school provides educational and intense behavioral support for students identified with emotional and behavioral disabilities through a referral and placement process. Students receive an individualized academic curriculum, as well as mental health counseling, psychiatric services, and case management. The goal is for our students to learn the skills and strategies they need to transition back to their zoned school setting.


Florida State University, 2007 Master of Science in Special Education/Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities


As an educator, what do you feel are your biggest concerns right now regarding poison control at your school?

The biggest concerns right now at our school regarding poison control is the increased use of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in the classroom due to COVID-19. These items are always kept out of the reach of students in the classroom. Teachers are dispensing hand sanitizer directly onto the hands of our lower functioning students. Aerosol cleaning supplies are used outside of the school day, and squirt bottles are used during the school when necessary. Students are moved away from the area until everything is cleaned so they do not inhale any fumes.   

What are the unique challenges that children in Exceptional Student Education face in terms of poison control and preventing accidental injury and/or death?

Preventing accidental injury and/or death for a child with special needs presents a unique set of challenges. Children are very curious and constantly exploring the world around them. Students with disabilities may not understand the consequences of their actions, and/or have the inability to think logically. The often have processing and memory problems which prevent the development of safety awareness at the same time as other children their age. Children with behavioral challenges may engage in behaviors such as knocking over tables, dumping out drawers, or climbing up on tables or countertops. Children that are non-verbal, or have speech/language difficulties, may not be able to communicate effectively in the event of exposure or ingestion of poisonous substances.

What are measures that you feel educators and families can take to ensure the safety of all children?

To ensure safety of all children, children should be taught to identify poisonous products that can be found across settings. Strategies taught in the classroom should be reinforced in the home. Parents should use the same language the children are familiar with in the classroom. For students with learning challenges, stickers or markings can be used to identify poisonous products. Adults should store chemicals and medicines in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children in their original containers. Medicine should not be taken in front of children, and it should never be referred to as “candy”.