An effective autism safety guide is essential for the parents to protect their autistic children at different adverse situations as the autistic individuals are not capable of ensuring their own safety. Most of the autism individuals cannot perceive the potential threats, assess the risks, understand the consequences of threats and do not know how to protect themselves from those threats. So, the parents are to look after their safety. Safety of all autistic individuals is to be ensured equally whether he is a child, teenager or adult.
An American study revealed that the individuals with autism appear to be at substantially heightened risk for death from injury. In 16 years (1998-2014) the individuals with autism died on average almost 36 years younger than the general population. Among them, almost 28% died prematurely by injury.
My autism angel Ferdous Mahi has a bad habit of endangering his own safety by putting his head outside of the window while traveling by school bus or private car. While aboard, he opens the window and puts his head outside to see the outside scenery. He does not understand its consequences that the other transports might hit his head while passing through. He has got another dangerous habit of burning match sticks and enflaming pieces of papers or clothes. There are instances where the bed, mosquito net, and rug caught fire by him. Luckily, we were saved from some major fire accidents.
Moreover, many children are not afraid of any accident as they can not assess the risk and do not understand the consequences. The parents of the autistic individuals would monitor their children, find out the potentially hazardous situations, assess the risk of danger and find out the ways to protect their children. For that matter, an autism safety guide is essential to take preventive measures to ensure their safety.
In this article, I would like to identify the potentially hazardous situations for the autistic individuals and formulate an autism safety guide to ensure their safety.
Autism Safety Plan
Prevention is always better than cure. The parents of the autistic children are to find out the potential threats to their children in different places, situations, and environments and assess the risks of the dangers. Then they are to take necessary preventive measures so that their children’s lives are not endangered by any potential threat. The priority must be given to the safety of the autistic individuals over the normal individuals. There must be an effective autism safety plan so that their safety is ensured to the highest order.
If the normal children are lost somewhere they can reach at their home by any means may be with the assistance of others. But imagine if the non-verbal children with autism are lost somewhere in the crowded place, they cannot communicate with others and it becomes very difficult for them to come back at home. Meanwhile, if they fall into the trap of the kidnappers (which is common in the developing countries) their life will be at stake.
As per the Times Colonist, June 4, 2017, a 10 year’s autistic child was remain lost for few hours. Finally, the police could find him out after a massive search and returned him back to his parents. If there were an autism safety plan the child may not be lost due to proper care.
The autism children are always at safety risk wherever they stay throughout the day. They face safety hazards if they remain inside the home, school, hospital, therapy center, community center or any other public places. As such, you are to include all these places in the plan when formulating the autism safety plan for your autistic children.
Besides, the places of their stay, following factors are also to be considered while making an autism safety plan:
The level of autism of the child. Whether the child is having high functioning autism, low functioning autism, verbal autism, non-verbal autism, autism with restricted movement etc. Different kinds of safety may be applicable for different autism level.
The age of the autistic individuals. The autistic individuals face different types of risk at different stages of life like childhood, teenage and adult stages of life. So it is an important factor of the safety plan.
The places where the autistic children spend some times of the day. The autistic children generally spend his early morning at home, morning and noon at school the afternoon with the therapists and evening with parents at home. They also spent times in the gym, swimming pool, art class, hospitals and community centers with the parents. They face different types of threats at different places. Different types of safety to be considered for different places.
The potential hazardous places for the autistic children. There are some potentially hazardous places like swimming pool, gym, school toilets, school bus, and public places where he might spend some times of the day. Degrees of safety must be higher in the most hazardous places.
The potential hazardous items nearby the autistic children. There are some items which increase the potential risk factor for the children. It depends upon what types of furniture, electrical appliances like a freezer, geyser, are used at home and school.
The places where the autistic children remain attended or unattended. The plan depends whether the autistic children remain attended or unattended throughout the day. The safety might hamper if the attendant/caregivers do not take proper care of the autistic individuals.
For your convenience, I am giving a general autism safety guide covering all the places, environments and situations of my imagination and my 21 years’ experience of living with my autism angel. You can take it as a guideline and make a unique autism safety plan applicable for your autistic children.
Autism Safety at Home
Generally, the autism individuals stay longer time at their home and they may or may not be attended always properly by somebody, especially in the developing countries. So, the parents should give prime importance to providing autism safety to their autistic children while they remain at home. Here I would like to discuss the safeties in relation to different items available inside the home.
Autism Safety by Furniture Arrangements
–Bedroom furniture. The furniture of the bedroom of the autistic individuals would be very strong and heavy so that those are not easily pushable or breakable. Many children have a habit of pushing the bed or jumping on the bed. My autism angel has broken his bed by frequently jumping over it. We are fortunate that he was not injured. If required, the furniture would be tightly fixed to the wall so that those cannot be moved by the child. Otherwise, they can get hurt due to breaking the furniture. The autism individuals would never be placed on the upper floor of the double storied bed. Any time they might fall down and get hurt.
–Furniture in other rooms. The furniture of the other rooms is also to be strong enough so that they do not get hurt after breaking the furniture.
–Light furniture of the home. If there is any furniture inside the home which is light in nature, it should be kept beside the wall preferably fixed with the wall. Otherwise, it can fall down over the child if he tries to push/move it.
–Furniture fitted with glass. Extra precautions to be taken for the types of furniture fitted with glasses, like the dressing table, showcase etc so that those do not fall down easily.
Autism Safety of Electric and Fire Appliances
–Autism Safety for the Refrigerator. The parents would take care so that the refrigerators are never be kept open if it is unattended. It may happen that the autistic children get inside it and make an accident. The refrigerator is to be kept under lock and key when not in use.
–Autism Safety for Geyser. The switch of the geyser should be kept high so that it is not reachable to your autistic children. Since geyser is the source of hot water, care should be taken so that no accident can occur with a high temperature of the water.
–Autism Safety for the gas oven. The gas oven should not be kept burning when it is not in use. Be aware of any kind of fire accident. Don’t forget to put it off when not in use.
–Autism Safety for Microven and other electrical ovens. The Microven is another source of very high temperature. As such it should be kept under lock and key so that your autism angel can not handle it on his own. Any electrical accident might happen. If it is in use, somebody should be present there.
Autism Safety of Fittings & Fixtures at Home
-The doors of the home are to be kept under lock and key to prevent elope/wander by the autistic children. The door lock should be fixed on the upper side so that it remains out of the reach of them. Autism safety door locks can be fixed at the doors. Doors sensor alarms can also be used to make you alert if your autism angel wants to elope/wander the home unnoticed.
-The windows of the home should be protected with the grills to prevent the autistic children from eloping/wandering from the home and any accidental fall down through the window.
-Some of the autistic individuals like my son have the habit of pushing/moving the household items. For example, my son has the habit of pushing/moving the TV when he becomes excited due to self-stimulation though the TV is fixed on the wall. By this way, he has damaged our one 32” LCD TV.
-The electrical switches, plug points are to be protected properly so that they do not get the electric shock. There are some switch protectors which remain closed when not in use. This type of electrical board can be used at home.
-The mirror glasses of the bathroom are to kept properly fixed so those cannot fall down and make any accident when it is moved by your autistic child.
– The wall mats, wall clocks are to be hanged at a higher height so that he can not handle it and get hurt. For the adult autism individuals, those would be fixed properly so that those are not removable easily.
-The autism individuals have the habit of keeping the lights, fans and water tap on. So proper care to be taken on those aspects to prevent any accident.
Safety Concerning other Items at Home
–Liquid chemicals and toiletries. The parents are to be aware that their autistic children swallow the hazardous items like liquid soap, detergents, chemicals, bathing liquids, pesticides and other toiletries by ignorance, which may lead to serious accident. These items are to be kept under lock and key. These are not to be kept in the toilets or bathrooms.
–Medicines. The medicines inside of the home are to be kept under lock and key and out of reach of your autism angel. Otherwise, it can also create an accident.
–Spices and condiments. The spices and condiments in the kitchen are to be kept out of reach of the autistic children. Those should be kept inside of the cupboard under lock and key.
–Match Box and lighter. The match boxes and lighters are to be kept hidden so that the autism children do not get it. My son has a habit of firing the match box and inflaming papers, clothes etc. We are saved a number of times from fire accident.
–Sharp knife and scissors. The sharp knife, scissors, and other dangerous weapons are to be kept hidden and out of reach of the autistic children. It can endanger their safety and the safety of the family members. I know about a child who went to hit his caregiver by a kitchen knife. Luckily the caregiver was saved.
Autism Safety at the Home Premises
Elopement and Wandering are very common to the autistic children. Many a time it is observed that the autistic children try to elope or wander from the safe environment. The autistic children who wander or elope, receive some types of injury. So, the parents are to ensure proper safety at the home premises so that the autism individuals cannot go out of their home.
Here I would like to inform you that one day my autism angel eloped from the home premises alone without notice when he was 8 years old. The caretaker could not stop him from going out. It was evening time and he was riding a bicycle. Then he was lost for two hours. Fortunately, he could come back home on his own. The safety of the home premises can be ensured in the following ways:
Perimeter fence around the home. The home of the autistic child should have perimeter fences or wall around it so that your autism individual cannot wander/elope out of the area without notice. The perimeter fence/wall should also be kept under lock and key.
Caretaker of the house. A caretaker can be appointed at the main gate of the house. The parents would inform the caretaker of their autistic children. They would instruct the caretaker not allow their child to go out unnoticed.
Neighbors. The neighbors would be informed about your autism individuals well in advance so that they would not feel irritating at the ill behaviors of your autistic child. They can also help you on the safety of your autism angel. If he goes out of home unnoticed and the neighbors can identify him, they can inform you and stop him/her going out.
CCTV Camera for the home premises. CCTV is an important component of the autism safety. The entire home premises should be covered by CCTV camera. If any anything happens within the premises you will be able to trace it out. If accidentally, your autism child goes out you will come to know through the CCTV.
Swimming Pool. If there is any Swimming Pool at the home premises, it will be properly fenced and will be always under lock and key. However, your autism individuals would no be allowed to go there unattended. It may be mentioned that all individuals with autism would learn how to swim under proper guidance. It will help them in a case of need. It may be mentioned that as per the study, kids with autism have a higher risk of drowning.
Autism Safety in School
As per Leader Community News, Australia dated June 3, 2017, an autistic teen was found gagged and tied up in the toilet block at Croydon Special Development School before being discovered by the teacher. This incident is an eye-opening for the parents of the autistic children about their safety at the school. The safety of your autism baby at the school is very important as he remains in the school for a quite long time. Following safeties are to be ensured when your autistic child is there:
Classroom. All the furniture in the classroom should be properly arranged so that the autism individuals never get hurt there. The class teacher is to be alert enough so that the autistic babies do not start fighting each other (which is most uncommon for autistic children). The teachers are to ensure proper safety of the autistic children when they are doing artworks with chemicals like drawing colors and paint brush.
Toilets. The autism individuals would not be allowed at the toilet without the presence of somebody. The cleats of the toilet doors to be placed out of the reach of the children. The tall autistic boys/girls are to be instructed not to fix the cleats. There would be separate toilets for boys and girls.
Playground/gym/swimming pool. The teachers are to keep close contact with autistic children when they are at the playground or gymnasium or swimming pool at the school premises. Proper lifeguards are to be provided to the autistic children while they are swimming. The attendant must be present with the child while swimming. In the case of any accident, proper care is to be taken immediately.
School Bus. The autistic children would be trained on how to get into the school bus and how to get down from there. The driver and the attendant of the bus are to be briefed to ensure it properly. The driver is to be told not to ply the bus until the child sits on the seat and fix the seat belts. The attendant will ensure that nobody keeps his/her head outside when they are on board.
Autism Safety at Public Places
When the autism individuals go out of their home following safety should be ensured by the parents:
Hospitals/Therapy centers. The autistic children must be accompanied by the parents while visiting hospitals or therapy centers. The doctors must be informed that your child is autistic. The doctors/therapists must be informed about the disease in details so that they can apply for proper medicine.
Community Centers. The autistic children must be accompanied by the parents while visiting community center. Since it is a crowded place s/he should not be left alone. Proper care should be taken so that they do not drink any contaminated water or visit the toilet alone.
Market Places. When the parents are visiting the marketplace, they should never leave the hands of the autistic child; otherwise, s/he might be lost as it is a crowded place. Parents can use anti-lost wrist links to prevent losing of the autistic child and ensure autism safety.
Site seeing tours. While going out for a tour you must carry all necessary items for your autistic children. S/he should not be left alone while on the tour. The parents should ensure that the ID card is hanged on the neck and autism bracelet must be worn by the autistic children. The parent’s telephone number must be written on the ID card and the bracelet.
Miscellaneous Autism Safety Matters
When the autism individuals go out of their home following safety should be ensured by the parents.
Food safety of autism individuals. The parents are to take proper care about the foods of the autistic individuals. Some of the autistic children have the habits of putting non-food items into the mouth. It is a serious health hazard matter. The parents are to keep sharp eye on it and timely stop him/her.
Traffic Safety. The autism individuals are to be trained on crossing the road. They are to be taught when to cross the road and how to cross. Primarily, the parents are to guide them in the task. The parents are to guide them till the time he can cross the road independently.
Safety against kidnapping. There are lots of instances of kidnapping of the children, especially in the developing countries. There are some gangs who all are engaged in these types of activities. Generally, the children are exploited by some attractive foods or other items. The parents are to be aware of it and take action accordingly.
Safety of the teenage girls and adults. Now a day, there are men around us from whom no women can be escaped, whatever may be her age. They have no sympathy for the helpless autism girls. As per KTVU News, an autistic woman was sexually asaulted by a 77 nyears old man on July 21, 2017. I know, most of the mothers of the autistic young girls pass sleepless night thinking about the safety of their autism girls. All parents are to protect their autism girls from these wild animals round the clock. So all the parents are to ensure the safety of their daughter round the clock. May not be that much good to hear, but these girls may not be safe to anybody else other than her parents. So ensuring the safety of the teenage/adult girls are the main concern of the parents.
Safety of the teenage and adult boys. The teenage boys sometimes are not escaped from these wild men. Since they have no understanding power some of these men take the chance of raping these teenage. Here I would like to mention one incident of raping a teenage autism boy by a man. As per The Iris Times dated May 29, 2017, a 56 years old man has been jailed for two and half years for sexually exploiting a 16 years boy with autism by performing a sex act on him in the toilet of a shopping center in Cork.
Safety against the torture by the caregivers. Sometimes it happens that the caregivers of the nonverbal autism individuals torture them in absence of the parents in the home. So, the parents are to monitor it and ensure their safety as they are unable to communicate. If required, the bedroom of the autism individuals is to be brought under IP camera so that you can monitor the activities of your autistic child and the caregiver.
Autism Safety Products. There are many products in the markets like autism safety ID cards, autism ID bracelets, travel ID bands, autism child locator, anti-lost wrist links, autism child proof locks, safety child cabinet locks etc. which can provide additional safety to the autistic children.
Safety of the autism individual should be the prime concern for their parents. Since they are not adequately self-dependent at any stage of their life, they are likely to face different types of threat throughout their life. It does not matter whether they are children, teenagers or adults. Their safety must be paramount whether they stay at home, in the home premises, in the school, in the therapy center, in the public places, they need a safety.
The parents are to make autism safety plan for the autism individuals considering their level of autism, their age and the places where they stay throughout the day. They are to make the threat assessment at different stages of life and revise the plan accordingly to protect their autistic children.
Some of the autistic children have the habits of eloping and wandering from the home. The parents are to adopt some additional preventive safety measures like door alarms, door sensor locks etc to stop them from eloping/wandering. There are some autism safety products which can protect the autistic children and provide additional safety.
Let us make an effective autism safety plan to ensure all round safety of our autism angels and save their lives from any potential threats and hazards.
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