Raising ASD Children in a Safe Home Environment

Natasha Barber is the author of the Tommy’s Lessons Series and Autism Safety Blog. She has a thirteen-year-old son and nine year old autistic son who has given her a fair share of safety scares.  Over the years with each scare she has learned the best ways to keep him safe through research, brainstorming, and trial and error.  She created an Autism Safety blog to share her personal experience and knowledge on Autism Safety.  Her inspiration has been her son’s curiosity, persistence, and his lack of understanding of what danger is. She is inspired to help other parents with Autism Safety and hopefully they can achieve some peace of mind and be able to enjoy family time better.  For more information on autism advice and experiences check out her blog (www.autismmomsknowsafety.com).  Natasha Barber is also the author of Tommy’s Lessons Series, which are fun stories filled with new lessons that children love. (www.tommyslessons.com)

Safety is implemented differently in every home.  Some parents have found that they need minimal childproofing during a child’s toddler years, while others have found it necessary to transform their home into a Fort Knox replica.  Why is there such a vast difference in designing a safe environment for an ASD child?   

The answer is dependent on the child's comprehension level and awareness to the world around them.  For parents with a child on the spectrum, these characteristics are usually the key factors for having to sometimes add extreme levels of safety defense mechanisms in their home in order to protect their child.  When your child doesn't comprehend danger or has "NO FEAR" it becomes extremely challenging to keep them safe.

Safety in the home for a child on the spectrum is all about preventing them from wandering or eloping and finding dangerous situations that can cause them harm. 

Childproofing a home is imperative to keep a child from climbing and tipping over furniture and also adding electrical socket protectors is a simple safety technique you can easily apply. These additions will protect your child from wandering away from the safety of their home. Why is this important? Some ASD children may live near water or high traffic areas and protective aids will prevent the possibility of drowning or stumbling onto a busy street. Keeping an ASD child from getting hurt or possibly killed is a challenge for any parent.  

There are many ways to prevent wandering inside your home that will help keep your loved one safe.  The different suggestions I will talk about are actual methods my husband and I have done in our home to keep our son from wandering out of the house into danger.  The suggestions I will discuss are ones that do not depend on the individuals’ age, sex, or level of disability.                    

If your child is a flight risk or wander—characteristics that exist in most autistic children of all ages that can be fatal—it is important to safeguard all doors and windows leading outside. This is the number one safety advice I give all parents.  Whether it’s deadbolts with a locking key feature, the door guardian, or an electronic keyless door lock; its critical to ensure that your child cannot wander away from the safety of their home.  I personally wanted something that was simplistic and the electronic keyless door lock provides that for us.  I am always confident that the door is locked and I don’t have to worry about someone forgetting to lock the deadbolt or use the slide chain lock when they enter the house.  I wanted something completely error proof and the electronic keyless door lock, provides that. The moment the door is shut, within 3 seconds the lock activates and I know Joshua can’t get out.  This gives my husband peace of mind to where we are not constantly worrying about our child’s safety. If you are more interested in an economical childproofing door lock, consider the Door Guardian or a Keyed Chain Door Guard installed out of your child’s reach. These style locks are not automatic like the electronic lock—they require manual intervention but still provide the same safety peace of mind of ensuring your child does not wander out of your home.  You can find these options online or at your local hardware store.

The other safety device that absolutely is a “must have” with door locks that is critical for parental peace of mind, are door and window alarms.  There is nothing more frightening then thinking that your house is secure only to abruptly find that your door is wide open and your child has left the house. This exact scenario happened with Joshua.  I thought we were all sealed tight and one day the older kids came in from outside and ran upstairs leaving the door wide open, this was something that previously happened often during the summertime in my home.  Joshua saw the door open and wanted to go outside to swim in the lake that was out behind our home. Not being able to find Joshua was the scariest moment of my life.  That was the day I realized that I needed door and window alarms that would force people to close doors because of the door alarm that will sound loudly throughout the house until the door has closed.  What easier way to get an instant notification that there is a potential your child may be at risk of wandering out of safety.

Safety Options

There are so many other safety hazardous that parents need to be watchful for such as electrical safety and making sure your electrical sockets are covered and that cords are not accessible to be chewed on or played with. Choking dangers require parents to be watchful of any small items that are easily placed in a child’s mouth causing an airway obstruction, this is especially dangerous with children that have PICA, and keeping hazardous and toxic substances away from little hands but the most important hazard is furniture tipping hazards. 

Autistic kids tend not to be aware of the dangers of climbing on furniture and results of the tipping furniture on their safety so furniture straps are needed.  Dressers, appliances, book cases, and televisions can all be dangerous to a climber, and all need to be secured as best as possible.

Being a parent is difficult enough, there is no manual on raising a child, let alone raising an autistic child who may have wandering tendencies. Being an ASD parent can be extremely stressful and challenging.  However if you are prepared, informed, proactive and alert it can lessen stress and challenges by preventing accidents and protecting your child. 


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