Keeping a child with autism safe is a full time job for caregivers. When summer arrives, a whole new list of things to worry about pops up: New babysitter, new routines, camp, pools, playgrounds, and the ever popular Ice Cream Truck.
Here are 5 tips on keeping your child with autism safe this summer:
- Talk to Your “New” Neighbors: It’s safe to assume your neighbors already know about your child. But what if you rent a cottage or beach house on vacation this summer? Go over to talk to those “new” neighbors. Give them a handout with a picture of your child and emergency contact information. You may also want to describe your child’s fears and effective ways to approach, communicate and calm your child. Ask them to contact you immediately if they see a child wandering away without supervision. Take note of your surroundings: Does the cottage next door have a hot tub or a swing set? These are potential places your child might be found.
- Stress the Need for Constant Supervision to New Babysitters: Make sure any new caregiver or babysitter understands that your child will wander away and needs supervision at all times while playing, regardless if it’s inside or out. Fairly innocent things can trigger an elopement: a new playground, a fire engine driving by, or perhaps the Ice Cream Truck just pulled up. Children with autism will cross a street without looking both ways so the caregiver will definitely need to walk your child (regardless of his/her age) across the street to get that Popsicle. Consider buying a harness if the caregiver seems reluctant to take your child outside due to the possibility of wandering. Harnesses are a choice only the parent can make. Make sure you buy one that both you and your child are happy with.
- Special Diet Awareness: Speaking of Popsicles, alert any caregivers or camps of your child’s special diet such as gluten free. Fridge locks are also a good idea. If unsupervised for even a short time, a child could potentially eat something out of the refrigerator that could make them sick, such as raw food. A fridge lock would prevent that from happening. And just to be safe, have the Poison Control Emergency Number (1-800-222-1222) posted throughout the house in places where it cannot be easily removed or misplaced. Your child could ingest anything from aluminum foil to baby powder and Poison Control can help any panicky caregiver.
- Teach Swimming at an Early Age: People with autism are drawn to water sources such as pools, ponds and lakes. Statistics show that accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for autistic children and adults. Swimming lessons could prove to be invaluable. However, small children can tire easily so even if they know how to swim they may not be able to do it for very long. Assist child in and out of the pool. If the choice were theirs, they would just walk straight into the deep end. See tip #2 about constant supervision!!
- Consider a Personal Tracking Device: A Radio Frequency (RF) device, such as SafetyNet, is ideal for people at risk of wandering, because it has strong signals that can penetrate any physical obstruction. With an RF device, you child can be found in places that a GPS or cellular product cannot reach, such as in a wooded area or concrete building. And it’s waterproof!