Safety concerns exist for all families. Losing a child in a crowd; a youngster crossing the street or parking lot; a refreshing dip in a pool, running through rain-swollen gutters and even outdoor playground areas are cause for parental anxiety. For the family of a child with autism, safety becomes an increased worry because some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are helpless in understanding the importance of safety.
Factors that contribute to safety concerns and a child’s lack of understanding include:
- Children with ASD have an unclear understanding about consequences of their actions
- Distractibility – many children with ASD are unable to focus for sustained periods of time
- Children with ASD lack the ability to generalize rules from one setting to the next
There is no single approach or magic solution to working with safety issues. However, prevention is critical and must be the primary focus. There will be many situations that need ongoing supervision.
Strategies for Teaching Safety Skills
- Plan and prepare ahead of time
- Make expectations clear with visuals
- Keep a journal of rules for trips or activities to review ahead of time
- Teach your child how to ask for help
- Role play and practice what to do when crossing streets and walking in parking lots
- Have a key word or phrase to have your child stop immediately and reward them for doing so
- Have you child wear bright colored clothing or tie a balloon to his or her wrist when out in a crowd
- Teach your child to problem-solve situations such as getting lost
- Have an emergency card with your child in large crowds if not at all times