5 Summer Safety Tips

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!!
  5. 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!

Summer Safety and Children with Autism

It’s never too soon to start thinking about summer, especially here in the Northeast, where it has rained every day for the past week! Care2.com recently did a post on thinking about the needs associated with a child with autism and their transition to summer, especially when it comes to the issue of summer safety. At SafetyNet, we’ve recorded a podcast that addresses several topics related to summer safety and children with autism. Take a listen.  What are some of the protective measures that you take to help keep loved ones safe from wandering, particularly during the summer?

Autism and Summer: Learning social skills

Some kids spend the summer learning archery, the backstroke or tennis. Some children with autism are working this summer on their social skills – an area where autistic people often need help.

The Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville is  holding a Social Skills Summer Camp this summer. Campers 7 to 11 years old work on basic social skills; 12- to 14-year-old campers continue to learn social skills and build on them with field trips; campers  15 to 21 years old learn social skills and early on-the-job skills.

In Wisconsin, a group of parents, teachers and others started an 8-week Social Summer Experience for autistic children. And The Autism Project in Rhode Island is offering a variety of social skills classes for children on the autism spectrum this summer.

In Lawrence, Kansas, a high school for autistic students offers a summer course on socialization with field trips to a variety of community settings.

From an outsider’s point of view, the scene looked pretty chaotic as students and staff from Free State High School’s summer autism program took a trip to a restaurant.

Of the dozen students on the outing, several were yelling, one was crying, and others expressed emphatically that they simply didn’t want to eat there.

One by one, staff members worked to calm the students.

The program and the community outings are all part of social skills lessons the program emphasizes during the summer months when the students are away from regularly scheduled classes.

“These kids need to be out in the community as much as anybody else,” said staff member Emily Hughes. “Our biggest goal is to help them learn how to be independent.”

via Free State High School’s summer autism program encourages social interaction / LJWorld.com.

Bicycling with special needs: Lose the Training Wheels Camp

TREXLERTOWN, Pa. — Learning how to ride a bike can be especially challenging for kids with special needs.

But the Eastern Pennsylvania Down Syndrome Center is trying to change that.

This year the group hosted a volunteer-driven camp to help children “lose the training wheels.”

via Anchors Away: Lose The Training Wheels – News Story – WFMZ Allentown.

Autism and Summer: Sports and autistic children

Sports  have  many benefits for autistic children — exercise, structure and, of course, fun!

But many children with autism don’t do well on athletic teams. If communication or social issues are keeping your autistic child on the sidelines, think about individual sports this summer.

Skateboarding has really caught on in the autism community, thanks in part to the work of the A.skate Foundation, which holds clinics nationwide.

Swimming is an important skill for your child to learn — and some communities even offer swimming lessons for children with autism.

Your autistic child may also enjoy tennis, martial arts or hiking.

Skateboarding, hiking, karate…. or Little League? Does your autistic child do better with solo sports? Any recommendations on good sports for children with autism?

Autism in Summer: Travel Tips

Any family vacation takes some planning. Planning is especially important when you are traveling with an autistic child.

Here are some Summer Travel Tips for Families Living with Autism from the Autism Society of America.

An autism dad  whose been there has advice on vacationing with an autistic child.

Both these posts have something in common – they recommend calling ahead, so do your research!

Recently, two  hotels opened rooms designed specifically for families with autistic children. The Clinton Inn Hotel in Tenafly, N.J., and a Wyndham hotel in Austin, Texas, both have features designed to make families with autistic children safe and comfortable. Let’s hope that trend catches on!

Do you have any summer vacation plans with your autistic child? Any tips to share on making travel easier with a child with autism? Please share!

via Autism Society of America: Summer Tips.

Cooking club helps autistic children build life skills

Brownie pizza was the featured entree at a recent cooking club meeting in Burlington County.

Four tiny chefs scrambled around the kitchen in the Medford community center, grating their white chocolate “cheese” and taking a quick break for “pin the pepperoni on the pizza.

“Brownie pizza may not be the most essential recipe for a 9-year-old to master, but Rosy Gruber says the cooking is secondary for her son, Jason.

“I tell people he’s going to a cooking class and they think, ‘Oh, he’s learning to cook.’ No, he’s learning to be a competent human being,” she said.

The class is part of a program organized by KidsAhead Consulting & Center for Development, which works with autistic children and their families to foster emotional development and basic life skills. KidsAhead offers consultations and parent education, with supplemental summer programs such as the cooking club, a crafts club, and a summer camp.

via Cooking club helps autistic children build life skills | Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/01/2010.

Autism in Summer: For some, it’s time for camp

For a lot of kids, summertime means summer camp. In recent years, more children with autism have been getting in on the summer camp fun.

There are a variety of autism camps being held this summer. In Florida, Joey Travolta, (brother of John Travolta) runs a film camp for children with autism.

In North Carolina, Funshine Camp lets children and adults with autism and other disabilities enjoy the outdoors for four days at no cost (they bring caregivers).

In Wisconsin, the organizers at Camp Awesum say they try to provide a traditional summer camp experience but accommodate the needs of autistic children with things like special sensory areas.

My Summer Camps, a directory of summer camps around the country, has a list of camps for children and teenagers with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Here is Spirit of Autism’s list of questions to ask when looking at summer camps for your autistic child.

Is your child at camp this summer? How’s it going? Any tips to share on making the transition to camp?