Creating a Safe Home for Your Child with Autism

For any parent, baby proofing and childproofing are of the utmost importance in order to keep our kids as safe as possible at home.

For many parents, childproofing a home ends with taking down the baby gate and placing parental locks on the TV. But, for parents of children with autism, creating a safe home takes a bit more thought and effort.

In this blog post, we will go over some quick and easy tips for creating a safe home for your child with autism.

Creating A Quiet Space For Your Child With Autism

When children with autism become over-stimulated, they are likely to act out. Some children may bang their heads or engage in other self-injurious behaviors. Others may bite or scratch themselves or others. Sensory breaks allow children to get the chance to regroup and refocus. 

When your child with autism is upset, acts out, and a time-out is needed, it doesn’t need to be a form of punishment for your child. Instead, view it as a way to refocus their energy and take their attention off of the external stimuli. 

Instead of putting them in a corner, you should redirect them to a dedicated space all for themselves where they can enjoy a moment of peace, quiet, and solitude away from siblings, friends, and other stimulating activities.

When you refocus your child’s energy and divert their attention with a moment of quiet, it may help avoid a meltdown. Also, when you continuously redirect your child to a dedicated safe and quiet space for them to escape to when things get too wild or stimulating, they will learn a better way to cope with the stress, knowing they can always escape to their safe space. 

When creating a calm space consider reducing the lighting, limit or eliminate decorations, and avoid hard surfaces if possible. Add some soft pillows, a plush throw blanket, and a few of your child’s favorite toys. You can either leave your child alone in the room, or you can stay with them.

Learn More: Sensory Room Ideas for Children with Autism
 

Home Security For Autism

Evaluate the safety of all locks to limit wandering. Kids are curious, and they love exploring. Kids with autism are even more prone to getting lost while exploring and wandering. In fact, according to research, 49% of children with autism tend to wander or bolt from safe settings. People with autism may not recognize dangerous situations in their environment, for example they may be attracted to water but not realize the danger associated with swimming pools or lakes. This is why guaranteeing that your child with autism can’t slip out of the home unnoticed is essential for their safety. You can secure your door by adding a bike lock on it with a code that only you know, adding a dual-lock system or padlock, or investing in an electronic lock that only certain fingerprints or codes can open.

You will also want to lock away other potential hazards, like household cleaners, gas, paint, lawn fertilizer, and other chemical products. We recommend choosing one place in the garage or basement that is not in your child’s typical daily environment to lock and store all of your chemical products. If you need to keep other potentially harmful products, like medicines, with you at all times, you may need to consider more sophisticated locks. It may seem a plastic child lock will do, but children with autism can be very resourceful and persistent when they have their minds on opening something.

Safety Precautions For Autism

Regular household hazards can present more danger for children with autism 

Be aware of furniture or items in your household that may need to be adapted, repaired or secured. For example, if you have a fireplace with sharp edges, or a wobbly bookshelf you will want to address these items as soon as possible to ensure your child’s safety.  

Children with autism sometimes have sensory issues stemming from a central nervous system dysfunction. The functions of the muscles, joints, and tendons that allow people to be aware of their body position in the surrounding area are known as Proprioception. 

Issues with Proprioception may make it difficult for a person to gauge where they are in relation to things like furniture, a stairwell, or a wall. Difficulty with Proprioception can lead to clumsiness and challenges with balance. In fact, you may have already noticed that your child appears to run into things or have more frequent accidents, compared to other children. Countertops, bookshelves, and the kitchen table could all pose potential risks in this case.

Consider installing rubber bumpers on all sharp edges of your house to avoid potential injuries or trips to the doctor. Secure tall furnishings to the wall, just in case your child tries to climb your armoire or bookcase.

Many of us are attracted to and enjoy being around water. For a child with autism, water activities can be a fantastic resource with appropriate supervision and in the right circumstances. It is critical to ensure additional safety measures around water as drowning is one of the leading causes of death among people with autism, according to the National Autism Association.

To limit the dangers that come with your child’s interest in water, we recommend a rigid pool cover, fencing in the pool area, an alarm on the pool gate, and locking the latch with a key. We know this may seem like a lot, but keep in mind, these measures can save your child’s life.

If you don’t have a pool, you’re not in the clear. Don’t overlook the importance of blocking access to faucets with hot water, fountains, drainage ditches, livestock watering tubs, and bathtubs and showers. Something that may seem harmless, could still lead to injury.

Teaching Your Child About “Stranger Danger”

As your child with autism gets older, they will likely answer the door when someone is knocking. Though this doesn’t seem like a big deal for the average parent, this can be extremely dangerous for a child, teenager, or adult with autism. 

Children with autism can be very trusting, according to the British Psychological Society. In fact, they may be too trusting. Research shows that they are less capable of determining whether they can trust someone based on evaluating their facial expressions. The ability to read a person’s intentions by glancing at their face is a form of intuitive judgment that comes naturally to neurotypical children. Without this skill, individuals with autism are often unable to determine whether or not a person they meet intends to hurt them, which can put them in harm’s way.

It is important to work with your child to teach them about familiar and unfamiliar people, potential  safety risks,  and how to respond appropriately in many different situations. Teaching your child how to identify who they can trust, will keep them safe at home, but it will also be a life skill that they will take with them well into adulthood and beyond.

Label Everyday Items

To keep your child with autism safe at home, it may help to use visual aids like photos, colors, words, and textures to label rooms, cabinets, drawers, closets, and anything else your child may need. A child with autism may better understand what is expected of them when things are labeled clearly, and it could help reduce undesirable behavior. In addition, helping a child understand an item’s function, can increase the likelihood that they use it for its intended purpose. For example, if visual labels for sleeping are placed on the bed, the child may be less likely to see the bed as a trampoline and use it for sleeping.

Always Teach Your Child

As your child learns and develops, it’s important to continually work with them to establish better awareness of potential dangers in their physical and social environment. Skills they will use at home, at school, and in future activities and environments. 

Your child deserves the best, and that includes learning and treatment in a safe environment from professionals who understand their needs. At the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, we offer exceptional programs for children with autism. If you are in Utah, consider our Center for the teaching and development of your child. 

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