As any parent of a child with autism knows, safety is a big concern - everyday. Not only do children with autism often wander off, they can be impulsive and may have a higher risk of accidents and injuries. Because they often have trouble communicating, if they wander off or become lost, it is difficult or impossible for them to explain who they are and where they live. Lack of coordination and impulsivity can both lead to injury.
The following are 10 ways to help keep your child with autism safe:
Create a plan of action should your child wander off. Have the number for the police department in your phone. Keep a list of friends/family/neighbors that you can call who have agreed to be available immediately to help you locate your child. Set up a phone chain or put one person in charge of making phone calls so you don’t lose precious moments on the phone calling a list of people.
Have a rescue package made up ahead of time. Your package could include recent photos of your child, vital information such as age, height, weight, color of eyes and hair, important medical information, favorite snack or toy for when you find your child, flash light and walkie talkies for connecting with other searchers,
Install an extra lock on all doors in your house that lead outside. Use a metal-slide or chain lock, placed high on the door so your child can’t reach the lock. You can place audible alarms on your doors and windows as well.
Create identification labels with your contact information. Place labels inside your child’s shoes and shirts. Some parents use stickers with contact information and place it on the child’s shirt or jacket when in public places.
Use a tracking device. There are a number of devices available, such as Project Lifesaver or LoJack but these are not available in all areas. Research different products, as well as GPS monitoring, to help you quickly locate your child.
Go over outside boundaries frequently. Take a walk around the outdoor area, showing your child exactly how far he can go by himself. Make sure he or she is supervised at all times when outside.
Practice traffic safety rules on a regular basis. As you are crossing a street, narrate out loud the rules at first, then have your child recite the rules as you cross the street. Make sure he recites the rules every time.
Use the cabinet locks to make sure all chemicals, knives, scissors and other dangerous items are locked up. Non-autistic children outgrow the need for cabinet locks but if you have a child with autism, keep the locks up.
Use child-proof techniques such as using window wedges to prevent opening, covering electrical outlets, using only the stove’s back burners.
Make sure heavy furniture and televisions are secured to the wall. While you may have rules in place, such as not jumping off furniture, it is better to have additional safety measures in place.
No matter how much preparation, you may one day face some scary moments when your child wanders off, can’t be found or has jumped from the highest point on the playground and needs to be rushed to the hospital. Having important information on hand and a plan of action can help you better deal with the situation and keep your child safe.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.