Monday, October 13, 2014

Teaching autistic children public safety

If your child is anything like mine, they announce everything on their minds to total strangers instantly upon seeing them. That includes guy walking by on the sidewalk, cashiers, construction workers, and anyone else.

No apprehension of strangers is a scary thing to deal with. If your child has wanderlust, it's even worse. So what do you do to help protect your child.

Learning is a long process. You have to accept that from the start. Teaching your child the risks of stranger danger has to be repeated over and over again for years. If your child is high functioning, they may eventually mature enough to understand. This is realizing that reality is not the same for all our kids.

That's why we are our children's best line of defense and we need to create an atmosphere that's conducive to teaching them what they need to know.

Can you let your child to go next door and play with a neighbor child? If so, speaking with the other child's parents about your concerns can go a long way. If there's a good rapport with your neighbor you could let them know that your child has no fear of strangers and is at risk. Offer an open door policy for you and your neighbor to talk openly.

Share your concerns with school, therapist, and counselors. Anyone trustworthy you can get on board to help you reinforce social safety is a plus.

Coach your child often! When I take my son to public places I remind him of our rules when it comes to strangers. This includes:

No announcements: Our lives are private and we don't need to tell everyone what we are doing.
Stay by me: No wandering off. This may need several reminders as things distract, but it's important.

If we get separated, my son knows to head for the cash registers and customer service counter. I know, quite a few of our kids won't be able to do that. They'll either panic outright or just get distracted by something. One way to alleviate this is to role play (if possible for your child) and practice what to do or where to go.

Our kids can learn safety rules and measures for social safety, it just takes longer than with typical children. We have to be watchful and point out issues that they miss. The more we coach and teach, the more likely they will develop some level of safety skill.

Granted this is just a nutshell overview, but it is blog post after all. Have questions? Ask away in comments! Comments are moderated so please be patient.

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