In honor of Autism Awareness Day we asked our friend Rebecca, who is a parent of a lovely autistic boy, if she had some home safety tips for us to keep autistic children safe. She graciously obliged and provided us with a lot of information to consider.
When dealing with autistic kids you must have a picture board somewhere in the home. If you had pictures in the kitchen and bathroom that shows a picture of stop, danger, hot, cold, etc. You put this “picture strip” on the doors (front or back) at child eye level. Each card should have velcro attached to the back and be laminated. You would attach to the door a double sided tape strip with velcro, so that kids can place their cards wherever you wanted to teach them those skills. I think it’s better to teach them rather than lock them out. Autistic kids learn visually, rather than verbally so any time you can give them a visual object it really helps to teach a concept.
It is hard because some autistic kids are fine and can understand danger, and others don’t. My son doesn’t talk and he’s almost four, but he does understand quite a bit. He always holds my hand anywhere we go and never opens the door to outside just to go. Instinctually he knows that it is wrong. Plus he is fine if I leave him in the tub alone, he might turn the water on more, which is funny because he adjusts the water temp.! We lock the inside doors and sliding glass doors. Otherwise he is fine and doesn’t get into anything he shouldn’t. The worst was he took a Sharpie and colored our rug which sucked because it didn’t come out.
Around the house
Keeping your autistic child safe isn’t just about keeping him in — you also need to keep him (or her) protected while inside. That means locking doors from the outside when a room is empty, using special latches on bathroom doors and perhaps also a toilet lock, and ensuring he can’t access the garage, an attic or crawlspace.
Don’t forget about other basic safety precautions — much as one would use for a neurotypical toddler. You’ll want to consider things like adding cabinet safety latches, no-pinch drawer closures, electrical outlet covers, installing window guards, ensuring picture frames are made of plastic and not glass, attaching dressers and tall furniture to the wall (to prevent tipping), making sure all your smoke detectors are working and so forth. (Get more child safety tips here.)
Be sure that furniture placement isn’t allowing easy access to windows, door locks or other means for your child to escape. In addition, if your child frequently runs out of a room via a predictable path, try to arrange the furniture so that he or she is unable to easily escape.
If your child likes to climb out of windows, install window locks (available at your local hardware or home improvement store). If your child breaks glass or pounds on the windows, replace the glass panes with Plexiglas to prevent injury and elopement.
Our home is thirty feet above the ground, if a window is open there is only a screen, of course any leaning and you’d have a huge and devastating fall.
Place extra locks on doors that provide entry to or exit from the home. Having locks that are high and out of children’s reach can prevent them from exiting the house unsupervised. Jon Baker of Chandler, Arizona, uses keyed deadbolts on all the doors of his home, because his son, Willy, who has severe autism, “has escaped a few times.” (You will need to weigh the pros and cons of different types of locks, with consideration to how you and your family will be able to evacuate your home in case of emergency.)
Still, locks alone won’t always do the job. “What’s hard for outsiders to understand is that these kids may not be able to carry on a conversation, but they often make up for that lack of skills in other ways,” says the mother of an autistic gradeschooler. “Some of these children can be remarkably adept at doing things like using electronic equipment, playing videogames and building complex sculptures with Legos. But in many cases, that kind of skill goes hand-in-hand with the ability to figure out how to defeat a lock.”
Summer Infant Baby’s Quiet Sounds Color Handheld Video Monitor Once your house is secure, you still need a way to discern when your child has left the house – just in case. A battery-operated doorbell chime on exterior doors may work just as effectively as a pricey home alarm system. Moriarty keeps alert chimes on her doors for added comfort. (Just keep in mind that the doorbell chime works only if the doors are left closed when not in use.) If you feel uncomfortable securing your home yourself or don’t quite know where to begin, consider contacting a professional locksmith, security company or home improvement professional.
You have the locks, the fences, the alarms. Still, knowing where your child is at all times is key to making sure you don’t launch into panic mode the moment he or she seems to be gone!
To cut down on that kind of stress, one mom uses a video baby monitor to keep an eye on her son at night. “We have the camera mounted high in the corner so we can see his entire bedroom. So now for the past two-plus years, we’ve been able to check on him a couple times a night without even getting out of bed,” she says. “I sometimes also use it during the day when he’s awake, just to know what he’s up to.”
Consider adding cameras throughout the home to keep an eye on things and these can be set to only record for motion sensing.
Children on the autistic spectrum often like to be outside and in motion, so leaving the home to play outside is common. A high fence surrounding your yard may prevent escape artists from leaving your grounds once outdoors. With the added sense of security this should bring, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying playtime. (Of course, pools and other water features should always be fenced; buckets, tubs and anything that contains even
Please make a donation to Autism Speaks today.
Albert Einstein school for autistic children in Hanoi, Vietnam.
some tips adapted from http://www.sheknows.com/articles/803443/keeping-your-autistic-child-safe-practical-tips-for-parents