Children with autism often have a hard time grasping and following safety rules. This is due to their limited awareness of what is safe and what is not, which puts them at risk of accidents or injury.
In this guide, we will walk you through three main areas of safety to teach children with autism.
Three Areas of Safety to Teach a Child With Autism
As a parent or guardian, there are three main areas of safety you need to focus on with your autistic child:
- Stranger Danger Awareness for an autistic child
- Fire Safety Visual Schedules for an autistic child
- Street Safety and Car Safety for an autistic child
Stranger Danger Awareness for an Autistic Child
Children with autism usually struggle to pick up on the subtleties of social interactions. For instance, they may not understand why it’s okay to hug a friend while playing but it’s not okay to hug a stranger on the street.
To prevent your child from interacting with strangers, you need to teach them social skills as well as stranger danger awareness. As opposed to their peers, children with autism need these skills for them to practice, understand and generalize them in their daily life.
Here’s how you can teach your child danger awareness:
- Teaching stranger danger awareness to children with autism requires continuous effort. Constantly explain to them the difference between a stranger and a family member, a schoolmate, and a teacher. You may want to use pictures that cut across race, gender, and nationality.
- Use simple, child-friendly visual aids and charts to show them what to do if they encounter a stranger.
- Use personalized, age-appropriate social stories that depict danger.
- You may want to expose your child to trustworthy strangers in the neighborhood. Show them images and videos of these strangers assisting both people and pets. Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters are a few examples of safe strangers.
- If your child is unable to follow the visual charts, you could closely monitor when they’re in school or at home. You must ensure he or she is always in sight regardless of location.
Street Safety and Car Safety
Children with autism can have a hard time grasping and differentiating street safety rules, which puts them at risk of an accident if they must walk home after school every day. Here are some tips to help your child stay safe while around cars and on the street.
- First, you must hold your child’s hand when crossing the street or walking down a busy road.
- If traveling in a car, you can buy your child a special needs car seat with a harness or vest that will keep them secure and prevent them from unbuckling.
- Finally, when your child is old enough, you can show them how to cross the road. That way, they won’t be stranded in the absence of an adult.
Fire Safety and Visual Schedules for An Autistic Child
Fires can occur anywhere at any time. So it’s good to teach fire safety to a child with autism to equip them with knowledge of what to do in case of a fire.
Role-playing is an excellent teaching technique for a child with autism. Let the child play the firefighter while you take on the role of the person in the burning building that needs to be rescued.
Make sure to walk them through what someone is expected to do before help arrives. Making this into a fun activity can ensure the memory will stick with them.
Another great tip is to utilize the learning resources on the do2learn website. They have excellent picture cards to help parents and caregivers design a fire safety schedule for their autistic child.
Here are some tips for teaching a visual schedule:
- Print out the flashcards on paper or card (you can laminate the cards since you’ll be repeating the lessons every so often.)
- During the first few times, arrange the cards in the proper order with your child.
- Next, let the child try to arrange the cards individually while giving them lots of hints.
- Then, let the child try arranging the flashcards with minimal hints/prompts.
- Finally, let them try arranging the sequence without any assistance.
- Hang the finished visual schedule somewhere at home where the child can see it.
Extra Tips to Help You Teach Safety to A Child With Autism
Seek Professional Help
You can also enlist the help of a professional when teaching safety to your autistic child. Keeping a child with autism safe takes a collective effort. Everyone at home and in school should actively participate in keeping the child safe. Even members of the community can play an important role in teaching safety to a child with autism.
To help your child learn better, you may want to incorporate rewards into your teaching schedule. Whenever he or she performs a task correctly, you can reward them with a hug, a treat, or a piggyback ride.
Another helpful tip is to constantly take initiative. Think about the areas your child goes to and who they interact with, and take the necessary steps to ensure they’re always safe.
For instance, if they have swimming classes in school, you need to teach them water safety. Does he or she know how to swim? Do the instructors provide floaters for your child?
Depending on how old your child is, you may also want to childproof your house to keep him or her away from potentially dangerous objects and gadgets.
Use GPS for Tracking
Lastly, you may have to consider tracking your child. This might sound excessive at first, but when it comes to children with autism, you must always be on your toes. They don’t have the sixth sense that might warn them about being in dangerous situations, so you must know where they are at all times.
Placing a tracking chip with a live GPS location somewhere on your child can help you always know their location. A tracker can come in handy for when your child goes outdoors or if they must stay home while you go out. You can track them with a wristband or by placing the chip somewhere on their clothes or bag. Just make sure you put it on an item they carry frequently.
No matter the teaching method you choose, make sure you collect data and feedback to track your child’s learning progress. Patience is key, as it can take months or years before your child can fully comprehend basic safety skills.
The Bottom Line
Teaching safety to a child with autism is crucial to their well-being. You want to approach the teaching process with love since children with autism have unique needs. Celebrate their successes with them, and don’t sweat it if they don’t get a concept right even after several tries.
You should also be persistent and creative with your teaching methods to see your child’s progress in no time.
If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.