Your home has served many purposes over the last year — it’s become a gym, a school, a restaurant, an office and most importantly — is still the place your family gathers at the end of the day to laugh, relax and spend time together. For families with children with autism, ensuring their home is a safe place requires taking precautions in almost every room. That’s because many children with autism have sensory issues that make them more fixated on certain things in the home that could be dangerous. Additionally, a study found that half of all kids with autism wander and try to escape their own homes, resulting in devastating consequences.
Children with autism can be especially drawn to items in the home that offer sensory stimulation, such as wires, medications or water. It is also common for children to have their own fixations, such as climbing into washing machines or exploring bright liquids.
Make a Checklist
Once your child begins displaying a propensity to explore hazardous areas of the home, or once you receive an autism diagnosis, audit every room of your home. You know your child better than anyone, and some household items may be more dangerous based on your child’s own interests and fixations. Once you have identified areas that may require extra safety precautions, write down and make a plan on how to approach each of these hazards.
Identify Learning Opportunities
While it’s important to remove any dangerous opportunities for your child, there may be certain areas of the home that can serve as learning opportunities for your child. Many children may not understand the hazard’s purpose, so discussing these with your child is beneficial. As parents, you can teach boundaries and limits with stickers or markers that your child understands. Labeling items, especially in the kitchen or bathroom, can help teach which items are off-limits. Big, red STOP stickers are especially helpful for items that are particularly dangerous.
As you begin your home audit, here are 15 precautions and steps you can take right away to enhance the safety of your home.
- Move furniture away where kids could climb
- Place alarms outside of a child’s bedroom to alert you of when they leave their room
- Use gates or barriers to keep kids from falling down or climbing stairs
- Put medications out of reach of children
- Install locks or sensors for entry/exit points of your home
- Stay organized so items are put away where they belong and not left out
- Mark any off-limits rooms with clear and bright signs
- Create a quiet space for sensory breaks to prevent outbursts or tantrums
- Add rubber bumpers to sharp edges on counters or furniture
- Place wires out of reach, or hide them out of vision
- Provide your child an ID bracelet with their name and contact information. If they do not like the feeling of wearing a bracelet, label each item of clothing
- Keep counters clean of decor that could be easily broken
- Lock away cleaning supplies, fertilizer, chemicals, and toiletries
- Talk to your child about fire safety, and lock away matches and lighters
- Ensure that all furniture is mounted to the wall and secure
Taking the time to enhance the safety of your home can provide the reassurance parents need to ensure their child with autism has a safe and nurturing space to be themselves.
Please note: While these precautions are helpful to avoid and prevent injury, it’s extremely important to consult with your ABA provider about potential safety issues with your child. Your child’s provider will work with your family to continue to teach behavioral repertoires to continue to promote safety.