Safety Precautions for Autism
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.
Top Home Safety Tips
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:
Home Modifications for Children with Autism
Move furniture away where kids could climb. There are autism climbing furniture products to encourage safer behavior as opposed to climbing on actual furniture.
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. There are high security gates that are essentially special autism safety gates for children.
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, autism safety 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.
Understanding Wandering in Autistic Children
Wandering, or elopement, is a common behavior in children with autism. It can occur for various reasons, such as sensory seeking, curiosity, escape from uncomfortable situations, or even seeking out specific interests. Understanding the triggers for your child’s wandering is essential to implementing effective safety measures.
Preventing wandering in autistic children requires a combination of proactive strategies, environmental modifications, and close supervision. Here are some practical steps to help keep your child safe:
Secure the Environment
Make your home and yard as secure as possible to prevent your child from wandering unsupervised. This may involve installing childproof locks on doors and gates, using window locks, and adding additional security measures like alarms or motion sensors. Consider using doorknob covers or deadbolts that your child cannot easily manipulate.
In case your child does wander, ensure they have proper identification. You can use a medical alert bracelet or necklace with your contact information and any relevant medical information. Additionally, consider sewing labels with your contact details into your child’s clothing.
Establish Clear Routines
Children with autism often thrive on routines and predictability. Establishing a clear daily schedule can help reduce anxiety and the urge to wander. Ensure that your child knows what to expect throughout the day.
Teach Safety Skills
Work with your child on basic safety skills, such as understanding traffic rules and how to interact with strangers. Role-playing can be a helpful way to teach these skills in a safe and controlled environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I keep my autistic child safe at night?
One way to keep an autistic child safe at night is by allowing them to sleep with a weighted blanket for an added feeling of security.
Do weighted blankets help children with autism?
Yes, weighted blankets have been proven to help ease children with autism.
What is the best environment for autistic children?
There are several environmental modifications that can be made for autistic children, including creating a cool-down room, installing alarm systems in the home, and using comfortable lighting.