Ways to Keep Your Autistic Child Safe
I was standing in the kitchen when my son’s ABA therapist emerged from the basement alone. I asked where he was. Her response was, “I just told him to come up here. Didn’t he?” My stomach sank – my mama intuition was telling me something wasn’t right. And it’s usually spot on. Up to this point, I hadn’t given much thought to keeping my autistic child safe.
She saw the look in my eyes, and ran back down the stairs, and I bolted out the front door, just in time to catch him sprinting across the driveway. He had let himself out the side door in the basement, come up the sidewalk, through the gate, across the front yard, and into the driveway…and he was still going.
He had opened exterior doors plenty of times before, but I was always there when he did, so it never occurred to me that he would just let himself out at some point. After all, he was only 3 years old. Wouldn’t he be scared to go outside without me? I guess not…that’s one of the many struggles with autism: no sense of danger. Needless to say, I’ve done plenty of brainstorming and safeguarding since then! These are the things that have helped to keep my autistic child safe.
1) Door alarms or locks
These are a must. Now I don’t have to block the door when I sleep. I can take a quick shower in peace. I don’t panic (as much) when it gets too quiet downstairs. I don’t constantly worry about the pool. These nifty door alarms make a loud ding-dong sound whenever a door (or window) opens.
They were so easy to install! Simply use the included double-faced tape to stick one piece to the door, and the other piece to the frame. Whenever the magnetic seal breaks (i.e. when the door opens), the alarm will sound.
Wsdcam door alarms come with a remote, so you can easily adjust the settings, or turn them off. (I never do, but it may come in handy for certain situations.) These door alarms have given me so much peace of mind since I installed them!
Another option, if you can’t stand loud noises, are these nifty door stops. You simply flip it open to use the door, and flip it closed to make it impossible for your child to open it. And it doesn’t damage your door – it discreetly attaches between the door and the frame, out of your child’s reach.
2) Visual aids
Teaching your child about safety is one of the basics, but we don’t always think about it. Visual aids are a lifesaver – literally. You can use social stories or safety books to help them learn to make safe choices in different situations. They may still struggle to sense danger, but they can learn to make a good choice if they are taught the safety rules.
This safety comic book is great for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. It gives them visuals of different situations, and instructions on the safe way to respond to each. You could also download clip art images from Google and make your own simple social stories and safety signs to keep your autistic child safe.
Dude. This is amazing on so many levels. I got these GPS trackers for both of my boys, because they have both given me a fair share of scares. You can let your child walk to the bus, or to a neighbor’s house, without fear or them making it there safely. You can listen in while they are at school, if you are concerned about bullying. You can even set off an alarm in a public place (hello, airport or Disney World! Or even Walmart, if your kids are as daring as mine!) if your child slips away from you, so you can quickly hear it and locate them.
It’s about the size of an iPhone 5, and it fits into a pocket. It can also be attached to the waistband of your child’s pants, or the specially made belt or undershirt that AngelSense offers. The material of the pouch is soft, designed to be tolerable for those with sensory issues…because it was designed with autistic children in mind!
You can set safety zones for your child, and turn on an alert if they wander outside the set area. You can even use the 2-way voice system to call your child. I can’t say enough positive things about this device! And it’s actually affordable too. You can click HERE if you want to find out more.
4) Video monitor
How in the world did autism moms ever keep their sanity before video monitors were invented?! Honestly, I don’t know how I could survive without mine. I purchased these amazing Infant Optics kits when my boys were babies, and still use them. Every. Single. Day.
I can keep an eye on them at all times, and still get my work and chores done. I can take a (quick) shower in peace, cook dinner, write a blog post, or fold the laundry while they are downstairs playing…and know that they are safe. I don’t have to be watching every second, but a lot of times just hearing what’s going on lets me know that everything is okay.
5) Oven Lock
Many children with sensory issues prefer to hide in small spaces. The oven can impose a threat for kids like this. If your child hides in small spaces, they may end up trying out the oven at some point. Oven locks are available to prevent injuries. Get one if you think you might need it.
6) Safety Gates
Safety gates aren’t just for babies. And it’s not necessarily to keep your child out of an area either – hearing the gate open and close lets you know when your child is moving to another area. This has always helped me to feel safer, because my boys move about very quietly otherwise!
7) Backpack or “leash”
There is a lot of controversy around these, but I couldn’t care less about what someone else thinks when it comes to keeping my autistic child safe. As soon as he was old enough to walk, I got one of these bad boys for my older son. And he loved it! Not only does it prevent them from ripping their hand away from you, it also keeps their arm from getting sore – try holding your arm above your head while walking through a store!
There are some other cool options too, depending on what level of sensory issues your child has. These are some of my favorite ways to keep kids close in public places:
8) Crash pad
Do you have a headbanger? I do! (And I have another helpful post about stimming and SIBs that you should check out if so!)
Another way to keep your autistic child safe is to make sure they aren’t slamming their head against hard surfaces. And this can be such a huge battle! It started with his highchair, then slowly progressed to walls and floors. By the time he was a year old, I had to place my little guy on the crash pad every time I saw him start to fling his head.
Getting a decent crash pad can help reduce your child’s risk of serious injury. We have a giant bean bag chair like this one, and we also use a thick memory foam mattress topper (folded in half) as another crash pad. Both of these are super options. Or you can check out this simple tutorial on how to make your own crash pad!
Keeping your kids safe
As a special needs parent, you have a whole slew of additional safety issues to concern yourself with. Even if you aren’t sure whether or not your child understands, regularly discuss dangers and use visual aids to reinforce proper protocols. It could be the difference between life and death. What are your favorite safety products? Share in the comments!