Autistic children have challenges with social interaction and communication, so it's important for them to learn how to react in certain situations to stay out of harm's way.
About 1 in 54 children in America have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to the CDC. It includes a broad range of conditions that are characterized by challenges in social interaction, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication. Symptoms usually appear by age 3, so it's important for parents to know from the very beginning how to help their child develop the skills needed to live healthy and safe lives.
Why Teach Safety?
Autistic children have challenges with social interaction and communication, so it's important to learn how to react or modify their behavior in certain situations to keep themselves out of harm's way, according to Autism Speaks.
The ways autistic children learn and think vary because it's a spectrum disorder. While specific behavior interventions and goals will be different for everyone, there are general safety skills (like reciting their phone number or asking an adult for help) you can work on with your child that they can use in all kinds of settings: at home, at school, or in the community by themselves or with a group.
How to Teach Safety Skills
Use the checklist below to identify and develop those behaviors, crossing them off as you go. It can help to have rewards ready when they learn each task or complete the whole list. Download our simple chart below, or make your own with visual supports that match your child's individual needs!
- Responding to name
- Safely giving personal information (reciting phone number or showing ID card)
- Finding a trusted adult if a stranger approaches
- Asking for help if they get lost
- Safely crossing the street
- Waiting when necessary, like when getting out of a car
- Identifying boundaries, like not leaving the home or the schoolyard
- Asking to leave a classroom or activity
- Using a cell phone
- Learning water safety and swimming skills
Download the checklist here: Safety Skills for Your Autistic Child.pdf
Below are some additional tools you can use while working on the safety skills with your child.
Showing ID card: Find options for medical and personal identification for your child. Click here.
Getting lost: Find safe and protected options to locate or track your child with a personal or wearable GPS. Click here.
Identifying boundaries: Help encourage your child not to wander with these tips and tools. Click here.
More: POAC Autism Services has compiled a list of safety resources and tools for parents with children with autism. Click here.