While some people may debate on whether or not ANY child at all should attend Burning Man, there are very serious considerations that must be addressed by parents of a Special Needs child before making the decision to take them to the playa. Granted, this article is focused on the Special Needs child, but it pertains to ALL children (and adults for that matter), regardless. When making the decision to bring your child to the playa, there are some things you must consider:
1. Does your child have any health issues? The nearest hospital is a two hour drive away; and that's presuming the only road 'out' is not closed due to an accident or other mishap. While there is a 'med tent' near Center Camp staffed with EMT's, it is not equipped for extreme emergancies, and a trip to the hospital via 'Flight for Life', can cost you up to $15,000. Additionally, if an emergancy were to happen, you may possibly be 2-3 miles walking distance away from the med tent.
2. Does your child require special medical equipment? The playa is a very harsh environment, and the dust will penetrate every crevice of your medical devices. So you need to ask yourself: "How will I keep the equipment dust free and operational? How will I supply power to the equipment? What will I do if the equipment brakes down?" It is EXTREMELY important that you ask yourself these questions.
3. Does your child require medication? If your child is on medication, you will need a way to store it in extreme heat, in a secure place, out of the dust and have extra medication available. If the medication requires refrigeration, you will need to determine how you are going to accomplish this and have a back-up plan in case your first one fails.
4. Does your child have behavioral issues? Whether your child is hyperactive, violent, or prone to masterbating in public or playing with their own feces, you need to know that these types of behaviors will not be acceptable in the community; just as they are not acceptable in a classroom, grocery store or anywhere else in public. If you've yet to find a method of controlling this behavior at home, then maybe your child isn't quite ready for Burning Man. (Note: the above mentioned behavior by ADULTS is not tolerated either)
5. How does your child react towards loud sound, music, bright lights, strange costumes? There are all types of sensory overload activites on the playa. These things may frighten your child, may cause an anxiety attack, or send them into a 'frenzy'.
6. Will there be another responsible adult with you to help you attend to your childs' needs? While you may be doing a fantastic job taking care of your child all by yourself back at home, the reality is; it's a much tougher job on the playa. BTW: This event is suppossed to be FUN for your child and YOU! Don't try to go it alone, bring some support with you. It won't do you or your child any good, if you are overworked, overtired and overstressed.
7. What will you do if your child gets lost? First and foremost, you need to keep track of your child at all times. It's a big and confusing environment, and children can get lost very easily. Make sure your child is wearing some type of identification, including your camp location and medical needs. If your child is prone to wandering off or running away from you, use a child leash, lock yourselves in your tent/rv at night so they can't get out when you're sleeping - do whatever you have to, seriously. If your child is missing: immediately search your camp/tent/rv, check with your neighbors, contact a Ranger. Have a current photo with stats such as height and weight readily available.
8. Will you be prepared to leave early or in a moment's notice? While this pertains to EVERYONE at Burning Man, as a parent, if your child gets sick, hurt or emotionally overwhelmed, you must be willing and able to leave BRC at ANY time in an emergancy. This includes leaving all your camping gear behind and making arrangements to come back for it, or having someone else take care of it for you.