Children are curious creatures. They’re a handful at all ages, but those with autism provide unique challenges to parents and caregivers.
Contain the Curiosity
The natural curiosity of children with autism often finds interesting outlets. Cover all bases to ensure their safety in and out of the home.
- Install keypads and security devices out of their reach.
- Use locks and alarms where appropriate.
- Secure furniture, appliances, cords that operate window blinds, and other household fixtures that can be dislodged and fall.
- Put covers on electrical outlets and protection on any knobs (e.g., doors, oven, faucets).
- Keep certain rooms or areas (e.g., tool shed, unfinished basement) off limits. Mark them with a stop sign to make it clear.
- Lock the water heater so that the temperature from the water faucet cannot get too hot.
- Hide or bind appliance wires.
- Lock away hazardous items (sharp household objects like scissors, knives, etc.).
- Safeguard bath items and toys.
- Secure furniture items, bookcases, or objects that can be climbed and dislodged.
Safety is Habit-Forming
Children, especially those with autism, are creatures of habit. Fortunately, your home is the perfect place to develop and teach the lessons they will need during development.
- Label and organize everyday items to provide visual guides.
- Teach them what to do in stressful situations like a fire, including how to use or be around matches, lighters, stoves, grills, and fire pits.
- Stay in communication with places they frequent. The lessons learned at home don’t always carry over to others’ homes or spaces.
- Teach, practice, test, and repeat. There will be learning curves, but practice makes perfect.
Sometimes Kids Need a Little Adventure
A seven-year-old girl survives climbing out of a four story window. A young boy sprints away from his parents into a pond. A student leaves the classroom to explore the city.
These are spur of the moment decisions children with autism make due to their difficulty recognizing whether a situation is safe or not, and compounded with lack of sensory processing skills, they sometimes elope.
Elopment is when a child runs, bolts, or wanders from a safe, supervised environment. But it serves a purpose. They might be running away from something – or running towards something.
From House to Home
Sometimes home safety for children isn’t about what’s happening outside of the home — but about keeping children inside of it.
In the 1999 Disney film Smart House, technology brought a family’s home to life, but it sought to control them. The film might have foreshadowed an ominous future of the tech-powered home, but today we’re living a more positive reality.. Unlike Smart House, smart home technology has been used for good.
“The number one benefit of technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” Steve Ballmer
New technologies in home security allow parents to feel free and at peace with safety — and children are able to explore and become self-reliant without danger.
If a child opens a door, your home security system will sound chimes or alarms. On top of that, today’s systems can even send parents emails, texts, or calls.
Video cameras can be placed in the house and in a child’s bedroom to watch their movement (this helps while traveling, if a parent steps outside, or if a caregiver is supervising).
Appliance timers and controllers can wake children and entertain them with their favorite television programming while parents get ready for the day.
Since children with autism are filled with curiosity to touch, explore, and interact, tablets allow them fulfillment and entertainment while parents rest.
All for One and One for All
If others are aware of children with autism in the neighborhood they’ll be prepared to help if needed. Remember to alert your local police department that there is child in the home that has a tendency to wander, and inform your home security system provider so a faster response is given to the caregiver and police.
When children are away from parental care they must rely on the helping hands of others, but when it comes to the home, technology has granted freedom that wasn’t available in the past.
Kids do the Darndest Things
The circumstances of childhood development might be different, but as little ones, we all do the same things. These tips are valuable for children of all ages and walks of life.
If you know a loving caregiver interested in kids safety, please share this with them!
Reading for Parents
- Autism Society – Safety in the Home
- Research Autism – Life Journey Through Autism
- Environmental Modifications in the Home
- Autism Speaks – Safety Tips
- WebMD – Safety First for Children with Autism
Resources for Parents
- The ARC – Autism Now
- National Autism Resources
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Autism Women’s Network
- Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism
- TASH (Disability Advocacy)