Most parents, as a rule, place their children’s safety as a top priority. But for parents of children with autism, the reality is that it can be even more difficult to keep your children safe from themselves and others simply because of the nature of their disorder. However, parents of children with autism should not live in constant fear. There are tips parents and caregivers of kids with autism can follow to make sure they stay safe.
Safety at School
Because children spend such a large amount of time in school, it is just as important to know how to keep them safe in the classroom as it is at home. The following six tips should help to keep your child with autism safe in their home-away-from-home.
- Visit your child’s school and classroom prior to the start of the school year. Evaluate the building in the same way that you evaluated your home. Are there doors and windows that lock? Can your children reach the locks? Is there any water nearby? Are there any sensory triggers that could result in your child running away? Are there times when your child will be transitioning from one place to another without supervision?
- Take your child to school prior to the start of the school year. Show them their classroom and the restroom facilities and introduce them to faculty and staff.
- Schedule a meeting with all of the faculty and staff who will be in contact with your child. Give them copies of the key information handouts and share your concerns with them.
- Schedule an IEP meeting before school begins and a follow-up meeting once the school year is underway. Be an active participant and advocate for social skills, safety training, and learning goals to be included and evaluated as part of the IEP process.
- Meet with the principal about the school’s policy on bullying. A study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that about 46% of children with autism in middle and high school reported to their parents they had been victimized at school within the previous year, compared with just over 10% of unaffected children.
- Also, ask the principal about the school’s use of restraint and techniques for calming students with autism. An ABC News investigation found that in recent years, thousands of children have been injured and dozens killed after being restrained at school.
Whether your child with autism is home, at school, or in a public space, make sure you have equipped him or her with the materials, skills and knowledge necessary to stay safe. Remember, you are your child ’s best safety advocate.