Teach Your Child Safety Tips
As parents or caregivers of children with autism, one of your top concerns is making sure they are safe. Helping keep the child safe in the community and at home are equally important. With a million things on your mind, it can sometimes seem like an uphill battle to cover all your bases. While you have probably done everything and more to safeguard your child at home, do ensure you take these community safety tips into account, when you are looking after a child with autism.
- Plan for emergencies and have a safety net in place
Involve your family, friends, staff at your child’s school, neighbors and others with whom you or your child interacts with. Identify potential risks and give them your contact information so that they can immediately alert you in case of an emergency. Some of the key risks for children with autism are that they may wander away and get lost. Be sure to ask at school about preventive measures. Give your child an identification card carrying your contact information to always keep on their person. Keep a recent photograph of your child that you update every six months to use in case the child goes missing. Also get your child fingerprinted at the police department and have them keep your child’s details and photo on file.
- Teach the child how to get around
Guide your child through things like crossing the road and the basics of traffic movement. Be sure to personally introduce your child to the teacher and staff at school and familiarize your child with the school premises and routine. Give them landmarks and help them remember by pointing out prominent places and pairing them back to a favorite story or color so that they are able to find their way home. If your child has to take a school bus or public buses to and from school, speak to the driver so they can take a little extra care. Try to find someone who takes the same route and can look out for your child. Give your child a cellphone that has GPS tracking enabled so you can trace them that way if required.
- Coach them on how to ask for help
If a child with autism is lost, it is vital they know how to get help. Teach them to identify and approach police officers or security personnel or community workers. They must learn to identify and speak to these individuals if they are lost. Be sure they carry and share their Autism Introduction Card when they need assistance.
- Do trial runs
Simulate a public environment by asking friends or family to role play and guide your child on what is acceptable behavior. This can apply to any new scenario you wish to coach your child for. It is especially important for things like settling into a new school or using a public restroom.
- Empower the child with handouts
With the safety of their Introduction Card in their pocket, your child with autism (and their parents) may feel braver to let them interact with others in social settings as well as with law enforcement, customs officers, and other personnel. These cards can be given away as needed, and your child can keep multiple copies. An autism support organization or your ABA provider can guide you with the details; you can tailor it to add on anything specific to your child.
- Have a buddy system
Get your child to be a buddy to your child on the playground. Ask them to let you know if anyone is causing any trouble or victimizing your child, or if your child is not behaving appropriately. The buddy will be your second set of eyes and ears and can be a great friend to your child.
With some effort and the help of others in the community, you can ensure leaving home doesn’t have to be traumatic experience for your or your child.
Autism Speaks is also wonderful source for more safety tips for children with autism.
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