autism
Parenting

Vigilance and Patience Are Key for Parents with Autistic Children

Young children require parents to adopt careful safety precautions for the first several years of their lives. That generally means blocking off staircases, keeping small objects put away, and making sure knives and other sharp items are out of reach. For children on the autism spectrum, household safety is a major concern. Autism may cause children to engage in unpredictable behavior at any time, including anything from breaking plates and glasses to inserting metal objects into electrical plugs or sockets. The potential for danger is always there, so it’s essential that parents remain vigilant and prepared for anything.

Arrange Furniture Carefully

Furniture with hard corners or small items, such as footstools, should be moved out of the way. If your child is inclined to run out of a room, be sure the door is closed and furniture is arranged so that their route is blocked. Clear tables of loose items if your autistic child likes to push or sweep objects off them, and keep objects on shelves locked away and out of reach. Chairs and other furniture should be kept away from shelves or bookcases on which your child might try to climb.

Cover Outlets and Keep Appliances Safe

Autistic children often display a dangerous curiosity about things that could cause them harm. Temptations such as electrical outlets should be kept covered and appliances such as toasters and microwaves should be kept well out of reach. A child who sees a parent placing things in a microwave oven may decide to give it a try and insert a metallic object, which would result in a fire. The knobs on your oven and stove top also pose a temptation and need to be made safe with knob covers, which can be found at most hardware stores.

If you have a washer and dryer or meat freezer in a separate room or in the basement, be careful to keep the door locked to prevent your child from trying to climb in. Remember that a child on the autism spectrum may show a great deal of curiosity about mechanical objects yet be completely unaware of potentially dangerous situations.

Service Dogs

Service dogs can make a significant difference with autistic children, who may find it easier to relax and avoid acting out when in an uncomfortable situation when a service dog is there. Dogs often have a soothing effect on children on the autism spectrum.

Use Common Sense with Hazardous Items

That sense of curiosity extends to things like prescription medications, cleaning fluids and common household chemicals an autistic child may be tempted to swallow or lick. It’s not unusual for a container with detergent or cleaning fluid to be mistaken for a bottle of fruit juice or a milk container. Be aware that pills may look like pieces of candy and represent a considerable danger if left lying around, so make sure you’re able to keep cabinet doors locked, and that shears, scissors, razors, and lighters are always inaccessible.

Bathtub and Shower Safety

Children love to play in the tub or shower, which can lead to serious injury. Try to show your autistic child that bathing and hair washing should always come first and that they need to avoid jumping, thrashing around or playing with bath toys until they’re finished cleaning themselves. Place non-slip pads on the surface and on the bathroom floor next to the bathing area.

Fire Safety

It can be easy to leave a lighter or matches lying where a child can reach them. Make a point of keeping any flammable items in a drawer that always remains locked. If you like to cook on the grill or barbecue or often use a fireplace, keep an autistic child away from the area.

There are many ways a child with autism can get into trouble in the home. A moment’s slip or occasional forgetfulness can have serious consequences, so learn to make a habit of safety. With persistence and diligence, you can also impress upon your child the importance of household safety as he or she gets older.

Jenny Wise is a stay-at-home parent to four children. She and her husband made the decision to home-educate when their oldest was four years old. During this journey, they have expanded their family, and faced many challenges along the way. With every challenge, they have experienced great rewards.

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