The Parental Guide to Keeping Autistic Kids Safe
Child autism is a prevalent subject featured on the internet, psychology textbooks, and seminars.
Nonetheless, ordinary people can best absorb its significance through motion picture entertainment (film or television).
If there is one film worth mentioning as a point of reference, it is the classic 1993 drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. It highlights the struggles young autistic individuals inevitably undergo – especially in the absence of a ‘stable support structure.’
Every parent that has a child diagnosed with autism would often receive the news with heavy hearts. After all, autistic children always require special attention.
A study by the American Journal of Public Health emphasizes a contentious but compelling premise concerning the comparatively shorter lifespan (36 years) of an autistic person based on the existing social norms. One can passionately disagree, but it is best to stand one’s ground by realizing these following facts.
Chapter - 1
Problem :Danger Assessment
One of the biggest problems parents must recognize is that autistic children have an impaired understanding of physical perils. Some of these kids often get hit by a passing vehicle while crossing the road. Others end up falling from several floors while climbing over the ledge. The list of horrific possibilities is close to endless.
Experts attending the 2018 INSAR (International Society for Autism Research) annual meeting in the Netherlands have come to a general consensus that autistic kids have a muted fear response. In line to this, a specific experiment has confirmed that autistic toddlers often have delayed reactions to visual fear-inducing stimuli (e.g. spider toy or masked person). Experts are often led to accept the following theories:
Search autistic kid in accident statistic
- Rigid Thought Process
Among the most obvious reasons behind the autistic kid’s muted fear response has a lot to do with their inflexible logic. In fact, this is the one aspect that is often demonstrated as a positive idiosyncrasy describing any fiction character with high-functioning autism – from Bollywood’s Rizvan Khan (My Name is Khan) to American TV’s Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon). Rigid thought process often works well with competent adults with ASD. However, this issue could be extremely dangerous for children with much simpler comprehension.
For an autistic kid, anything that is outside his or her observable experience is both unreal and completely unlikely. For instance: if he or she is not yet hit by a car across the road, it will never happen. Autistic kids would often need observable data in order to realize a dangerous situation.
- Sensory Processing Issues
Another crucial reason why the fear factor is unlikely to register into the minds of autistic children is a direct result of sensory processing issues. Getting caught in the cross-fires of danger can be triggered by hyposensitivity. It is a common deficiency in terms of evaluating the sense of satisfaction absorbed in any or all of the five senses.
As a result, an autistic child experiences intense lure towards a certain object. Their need to see (at closer view), feel, hear and even taste an object is comparatively more powerful and extremely difficult to resist.
For instance: an unsupervised child will dive into a deep torrential river out of sheer curiosity.
- Unbalanced Attention
Another reason why autistic kids seem to have a poor grasp of the dangers around them is that they don’t seem to pay attention to anything else apart from what they are doing. This laser-sharp focus could work in several specific areas of a person’s life. Unfortunately, ASD individuals tend to take it to such an extreme and dangerous level.
Case in point: a child concentrating on his/her Rubiks Cubic or puzzle can be too absorbed with the task even to the point of being completely disconnected from his/her immediate surroundings. Hence, multi-tasking and autism are practically incompatible.
Apart from the urge to satisfy sensory needs, the mind of autistic children can find it very easy to slip away from their physical reality. Even the most mundane task or object can easily cause him/her to mentally drift away.
Problem: Wandering or Elopement
Decades ago, pediatric health professionals used to struggle with the behavioral patterns determining how an autistic child’s acts. Fortunately, in contemporary times these patterns are becoming clearer and parents already have a chance to prevent terrible consequences.
Of all the issues that plagued parents of autistic kids in terms of safety, the act of running away is the one riddle that gained real traction. As of 2018, it was discovered that 1 in every 45 autistic children are wanderers or runners. An even more disconcerting fact is that the tendency to elope may worsen as the child gets older.
The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) published a study in 2011 explaining why autistic children would run away. Peers and general readers are currently anticipating updates following the initial investigation. Currently, the top 5 factors behind elopement include the following:
The initial results of the first survey revealed that slightly more than half (54%) of the wandering autistic children did it for the sheer pleasure of exploring the world around them. In this particular instance, a child with ASD has no particular direction and/or destination.
In terms of mileage, their trek continues as long as their mind and body allow it. On a brighter note, exploration does not always fuel urgency for fast-paced movement. It could be the only real chance parents and caretakers have in safely finding their lost autistic child.
- Target Location
The second most compelling theory (36%) behind eloping autistic kids is that they have a particular destination in mind. But considering the fact that autistic children cannot always tell the difference between fact and fiction, the place they are looking for may not likely exist – at strictly in the way typical adults understand it.
Places like Asgard (garden resort), Narnia (forest), and Hogwarts (subway station) can be a valid target location. Autistic children may also prefer visiting actual familiar places such as the playground, chapel, or the local zoo. More importantly, they are likely to do it at a leisurely pace.
The third prevalent motivation (33%) for autistic kids fleeing from their adult caretakers is often the saddest one – anxiety. It often goes without saying that, like all children, youngsters with ASD are susceptible to severe emotional trauma.
A place that brings a lot of social pressures (e.g. regular classroom) is likely to chase an autistic child away. While the reason for leaving adult supervision is very obvious, the little runner may not always have a target location. The risks are incredibly high (if not life-threatening) for those who felt like they are running for their lives.
- Special Interest
Fourth among the biggest reasons (31%) for an autistic child to elope has a lot to do with a fascinating object or idea. Since children with ASD are more selective in terms of paying attention to a particular subject, they also tend to pursue it with greater passion than their non-ASD peers.
For instance: an autistic child that developed a strong interest with trains winds up in the middle of the train track. Unlike visiting a target location, the task required to pursue the lost child requires a broader and more complicated guesswork.
Nearly a quarter of the wandering autistic children (27%) escape adult supervision simply because they are driven away by physically uncomfortable stimuli. In connection to the sensory processing problem mentioned earlier, ASD kids are likely to flee from anything that assaults their five senses.
Examples of irritating stimuli include very bright and lurid colors (e.g. yellow) and loud chaotic sounds (e.g. traffic or home renovation). What makes this trigger exclusively difficult to deal with is that the provocation is often instantaneous and unpredictable.
Problem: Bullying or Victimization
The earlier mentioned problems have proven that, to a certain extent, autistic kids can be their own source of danger. It only logically follows that the perils can be more appalling if they are being targeted by other people with terrible intentions.
Bullying has always been a serious concern among parents of autistic kids.
Experts believe that autistic kids are perfect targets for bullying. These are some of the strongest reasons motivating various forms of abuse towards them:
One of the main reasons why autistic kids are victimized is because their typical peers see them as ‘weird.’ The bullying of outcasts in a school setting is a vivid microcosmic reflection of every social injustice that occurred throughout the entire history of mankind. Autistic kids are bullied because it is not a ‘socially acceptable’ behavior for every child to do any of the following:
- Echo words and phrases
- Repeat themselves for a long time
- Avoid physical and eye contact
- Spin objects and/or themselves
- Obsess themselves over something
- Ignore or react differently to sounds
- Laugh or yell for no apparent reason
Even an adult has a tendency to be intolerant of strange manners – despite the advantage of extensive learning experiences. An uncompromising child with a limited understanding of things is expected to react more viciously to such oddity.
Deficient Social Interactions
Most autistic kids get bullied simply because of what they are. While some might avoid attracting unwanted attention from tormentors, it is rarely easy for them to prevent hostilities whenever they interact with their peers. Apart from the muted fear response, children with ASD are also known for misinterpreting complex forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.
Even kids with high-functioning autism (e.g. Asperger’s Syndrome) could not comprehend a joke – or at least not without enhancement training. They also struggle to make sense with figures of speech. Hence, their inappropriate response to certain inputs could get them into trouble. Even if a classmate luckily establishes a coherent conversation, topics would be very restricted – often pervaded with repetitive dialogue.
In terms of non-verbal communication, autistic children are practically incapable of reading the body language. Most kids would know if someone dislikes them by seeing the other person’s angry stare. Autistic kids could not have taken a hint if their playmates do not want their presence.
In 2018, a study by the Lancaster University (UK) establishes another aspect concerning the bullying of an autistic child without necessarily letting him or her experience negative emotional trauma. This research is predicated on the theory that autistic children suffer from an inability to determine fair trade.
Experts discovered through a simulated game of trading cards that children with ASD are 37% less likely to reciprocate fair offers. They are also three times more likely to accept an unfair offer. Judging from this result, bullies can simply take advantage of autistic kids based on their lack of conscious regard for personal gain.
In a specific worst-case scenario, an autistic child that craves for social acceptance (genuine or otherwise) would put up with anything to confirm that favorable reception. In an age group that is known for a general lack of accountability, peer pressure can lead to seriously terrible (even deadly) consequences.
The earlier theories are aligned with the common assumption that autistic children have impaired comprehension and subpar communication skills. But the broad range of autism spectrum and the random prevalence of known symptoms somewhat derails that line of reasoning.
In other words, it is wrong to assume that all children diagnosed with ASD are incapable of acknowledging the main cause of the physical pain, anxiety, and emotional trauma they are experiencing. Some of the youngsters with ASD do recognize abuse from their peers and things tend to get very ugly whenever that happens.
The one prevailing characteristic of an autistic child is the tendency to express extreme and disproportionate anger when aggravated. One should bear in mind that it does not require a lot of effort or imagination to provoke them. Considering that autistic kids tend to be rigid, things not going exactly in their direction can be a devastating experience.
Some of these special needs children get violent in their retaliation. But those who could not mount an effective resistance would, inversely, end up getting badly beaten by multiple offenders and ostracized by everyone who witnessed their meltdown. Worst of all, some of them would even resort to inflicting self-harm.
Chapter - 2
Parental For Protection
Almost every English-speaking individual on earth understands the idiom “prevention is better than cure.”
Apart from health, no other aspect of human existence is prevention more valued than ‘personal security.’
In the case of autistic kids, it’s extremely valid.
- 1 The Parental Guide to Keeping Autistic Kids Safe
- 2 Contents
- 3 Chapter - 1
- 4 Identifying The
- 5 Problem :Danger Assessment
- 6 Problem: Wandering or Elopement
- 7 Problem: Bullying or Victimization
- 8 Chapter - 2
- 9 Parental For Protection
- 10 Strategy: Planning
- 11 Strategy: Teaching
- 12 Strategy: Sharing
- 13 Strategy: Identification
- 14 Chapter - 3
- 15 In Your Home
- 16 Backyard & Garden
- 17 Doors & Windows
- 18 Lounge, Bath & Kitchen
- 19 Personal Space
- 20 Animal Companions
- 21 Monitoring & Tracking
- 22 Pica Prevention & Control
- 23 Fire Safety
- 24 Preventing Hot Water Injuries
- 25 Chapter - 4
- 26 Prevention And Strategies
- 27 Working with First Responders
- 28 Working with Neighbors
- 29 Working with Teachers
- 30 Tips To Prevent Elopements
- 31 Chapter - 5
- 32 Safety Tips For Autistic Kids
- 33 Drug Adverse Effects
- 34 Audio/Visual Cure Methods
- 35 Chapter - 6
- 36 Enhanced Through Physical Activities
- 37 Swimming
- 38 Sports
- 39 Martial Arts
- 40 Outdoor Play
- 41 Family Activities
- 42 Chapter - 7
- 43 In Schools
- 44 Chapter - 8
- 45 In Public
Almost every English-speaking individual on earth understands the idiom “prevention is better than cure.” Apart from health, no other aspect of human existence is prevention more valued than ‘personal security.’ When it comes to the protection of autistic children, the first important step involves planning.
Every parent must understand that autism is permanent. ASD’s behavioral conditions can be modulated through a variety of lifestyle adjustments. However, the set of psychological characteristics that made a child autistic will not be completely removed.
One should bear in mind that when it comes to planning, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all checklist. Whatever specific plan parents and guardians come up with, the only unassailable factor worth considering is a set of principles that make each strategy work. Here are a number of philosophical truths to live by:
While it is worth identifying every known clinical sign, a single autistic child does not possess them all. Aside from varying symptoms or characteristics, there are also vast differences in terms of how mild or severe these symptoms occur. Ultimately, this principle entails keener observation and a more organized checklist.
It pays for every parent to look at their child’s behavior through the lens of personal security. In other words, they must identify which specific traits could actually lead to dangerous consequences. The severity of the symptoms also helps determine how likely an autistic child may put oneself in perilous situations.
Having a child can be a completely life-altering experience for every adult. The most radical change comes from one’s understanding of the word ‘responsibility.’ And when it comes to the specific aspect of an autistic child’s life, safety practically leaves little to no margin for error.
The safety of an autistic child is extremely precarious due to their muted fear response, their tendency to wander, and their varying degrees of social deficiencies. It’s simply not enough to be cautious. A parent must restructure his/her entire way of life involving these crucial aspects:
- Financial stability
- Beliefs and perspective
- Household management
- Community adjustment
- Lifestyle and activities
It is often said that change is the only constant thing in this world. The same universal wisdom applies to how parents draw and execute their plans. Parenting strategies must remain sharp and firm. However, it must also be dynamic and able to adapt to their child’s evolving character.
A program that worked for a 3-year old autistic child may not be that much effective after 3 to 5 years. Just like a medical or scientific research, the parenting checklist must be updated – retaining the methods that work and overhauling the methods that no longer work.
Autistic youngsters do not necessarily outgrow all of the specific habits or traits that may imperil their lives. Some of them who started wandering since toddlerhood may elope at a different schedule when they reach mid-school years. There are others who may outgrow the tendency to avoid eye contact but at the expense of reacting more violently to physical touch.
Parents should also consider the fact that, like every human being, autistic kids evolve mentally and physically. This means that the original protective obstacles once set in place can eventually be bypassed – either by the sharpness of their wits, the force of their physical strength, or even a combination of both.
Every parent is solely responsible for the overall security of their child. While almost all can appreciate the importance of this calling, many would err on the side of how they are doing it –especially when it comes to children with special needs. A parent’s individual efforts, one that is spurred by the duty to provide ample support, only comprise a fraction of successful parenting.
American civil society in contemporary times is rife with ‘helicopter parents’ – hyper-present but psychologically absent procreators who observe and direct every aspect of their children’s life. As far as pediatric behavioral experts are concerned, this method of parenting breeds weak, dependent, and inept future adults.
Other than the issues and challenges that parents can independently shoulder, the other fraction of successful parenting comes down to effective mentorship and guidance – otherwise known simply as teaching. In fact, the continuity of human beings as species largely hangs on the ability of a parent to teach important life lessons. As a common proverb says, ‘parents are the first teachers.’
Parents can somehow get away with complete oversight of their autistic children. However, it is their inviolable obligation to enhance their child’s ability to figure things out – especially more so with autistic kids who are struggling with certain aspects of learning (e.g. abstract ideas).
Teaching is the one strategy that truly comprises the brunt of parental effort. It doubles the requirements of time, energy, and patience. Ingenuity can lighten the burden, and here are some of the clever ways one can make the teaching strategy work:
One of the most (if not the single most) effective method of teaching autistic children is through the use of visual aids. Positive sensations acquired from looking at simple (but precise) drawings make them more receptive to absorbing important information. It is safe to say that autistic kids are visual learners.
Apart from basic concepts, the potential of visual learning extends from academic competence to character formation (morality and ethics). In fact, visual aids can even teach autistic kids the value of patience – often popularly known as ‘the mother of all virtues.’
Children with ASD tend to have a strong need for order or routine and they often depend on observable rules to shape their very existence. Here are some examples of how visual aids easily mold discipline:
- Schedule: it helps to keep track of one’s tasks throughout the day.
- Calendar: it helps to look forward to future key events uncomplainingly.
- Timer: it helps establish duration limits for every task or endeavor.
- Wait Card: it allows foregoing or delaying something at an indefinite period.
- Choice Board: it helps set boundaries in identifying good or bad choices.
It is one thing for parents to help autistic kids answer the ‘what’ question. Dealing with the ‘how’ of things, on the other hand, requires an extra amount of effort and forbearance. Unlike typical youngsters, children with ASD often fall behind the learning curve in terms of motor skills.
A better life awaits those who have developed gross (e.g. walking, running, and jumping) and fine (e.g. writing, tying shoelaces, and use scissors) motor skills at an early age. When it comes to hand-eye coordination, parents can enhance the learning process via teamwork (or team play).
Children are predisposed to imitating their parents. The same holds true for autistic kids, even though it requires a little bit of effort to gain their attention. Youngsters learn how to button their shirts or write their name by observing how exactly the adults do it.
The same goes for enhancing their speech. As noted earlier, autistic children only respond to simple and direct verbal cues. Since kids with ASD are easily frustrated, negative responses such as “No!” or “Wrong!” can be mistaken as a verbal attack.
The most recommended way for parents to develop an autistic child’s verbal aptitude is for them to be the joiner. In other words, they need to participate in whatever the child is doing. Autistic kids are more receptive to acknowledging their parent’s words when unity is established. In academic terms, this process is also known as ‘Floortime.’
Whether or not the child has ASD, each one is always capable of wondering ‘why’ things are the way they are. In fact, some autistic kids are even more inclined to do a certain task if they understand its purpose. As the first teachers, parents are pretty much the first reliable source of information for autistic children.
Autistic kids need to be inspired in order to undertake a challenging task. Anxiety, frustration, and even sensory overload can always get in the way. Children with ASD are prone to conceive reality as structured, one that is solely determined by predictable outcomes – which means it’s almost impossible to think of success after a series of failed attempts.
Fortunately, autistic children have no reason to believe that their parents would lie to them. Some have managed to use this to their advantage and tell fictional fairy tales to boost their child’s morale. The power of suggestion turns the child into triumphant main character in a tale weaved by their parents or adult guardians.
An autistic child who has listened to a story titled “The Boy Who Writes His Name” will be steadfast in his efforts to master the skill of writing amidst several failed efforts. To the mind of the focused special needs child, the story is true and the story is about him.
As far as the academic and religious definition goes, a ‘family is an important unit of society.’ Considering that the family dynamics of the autistic child focus on their special needs, it is inevitably important that this way of life must also thrive in a larger playing field.
Hence, the last crucial strategy in protecting autistic children is to affect positive change by sharing the knowledge and advocating autism awareness. Any parent with an autistic child qualifies as principal lobbyist for advancing special needs campaigns.
It is possible to make the world a much safer place for children with ASD. Unfortunately, not every person on earth is genuinely willing to coexist with those they see as ‘outsiders.’ People with significant contributions in the community are perfect recipients/subjects of this strategy. In cooperation with the medical and psychiatric fields, parents can promote the safety and welfare of autistic kids in these various social settings:
- Online Forum
Each autistic child has an identity – an abstract but substantial concept that embodies a meaningful existence. Hence, an ID is more than just a formal fashion accessory. It is also a practical application of the previously mentioned strategies – a material catalyst for producing favorable progress.
Letting the autistic child wear an ID also reinforces habits that mold a strong sense of propriety, especially in the public sphere where such principle is highly valued (e.g. ‘No ID, no entry’). Simply put it, this practice is one of the many that only gets easier upon adulthood.
Nonetheless, the most practical merit of wearing ID at a relatively very early age pertains to its unassailable sense of security. Considering the wide variety of social challenges plaguing an autistic child, communication has always proved to be a very difficult aspect of their life. Their ID provides them with a barrier-free language explaining their condition (and how best to approach them).
An ID also provides crucial information for bystanders to respond and notify parents in their absence in case of a medical emergency. In fact, the ID is one of the most basic tools that help recover those who escape from home or who got lost after being separated from the adult guardian.
Chapter - 3
In Your Home
Children, especially those with learning disabilities and special needs, are vulnerable to all life-threatening factors one can possibly find indoors.
In 2016, the National Safety Council estimated that roughly 52.7% deaths from preventable injuries happen at home. Considering the vulnerability and risks associated with an autistic child, the statistical likelihood increases exponentially as compared to capable adults.
It simply stands to reason that a conventional home setup is not an ideal place for an autistic child to live. A great deal of effort (as well as resources) is necessary in order to realize an overall interior design and program that prevents autistic kids from endangering themselves. One can apply an extensive catalog of precautions for each of these major domestic areas:
Backyard & Garden
Autistic kids crave a heightened sensory experience. In effect, they can be easily drawn outdoors to gaze the color of the sky, feel the cool breeze or warm sunshine, and hear the song of bugs and birds. Parents do not have to necessarily deprive their child of the wonders outside their home. However, they need to set limits in terms of how far they can explore.
Putting up fences can help establish the spatial boundaries. In doing so, parents should also take into account their children’s unavoidable tendency to climb over it. Hence, fences…
- Must be at least 6 to 8 feet high.
- Must not have an easy foothold (e.g. mesh).
- Must not have an abrasive texture (e.g. wood).
- Must have a sophisticated gateway lock.
With the borders in place, parents must also pay keen attention to the details of the landscape. In terms of the yard terrain, one should be wary of ‘loose pavement’ such as gravel – that is if the child in question has a tendency to consume non-edible objects in his/her midst (pica).
As for vegetation, it is also crucial for the parents to cultivate plants that are non-toxic to humans. Common flowers like hydrangea, foxglove, larkspur, oleander, and rhododendron are unacceptable since they contain poisonous chemicals when ingested.
Lastly, parents must always put hardware tools back into padlocked sheds. Children are fond of tinkering with them out of sheer curiosity – even at the expense of getting seriously injured. If not for the possibility of inflicting self-harm, some instruments (e.g. ladder or hammer) can be used as a leverage to bypass the fences.
Doors & Windows
Despite the enormous advantage of living in a home with enclosed outdoor perimeters, not every household with an autistic child lives in the suburbs. As far as elopement is concerned, the main doors (front and rear/veranda) and windows prove to be the most heavily guarded parts of the overall residential edifice.
Apart from looking out for jumpy burglars trying to break in, parents are also vigilantly watching over stubborn autistic kids trying to break out. On top of the existing knobs, the main doors must have double-sided deadbolts to effectively discourage break-out attempts. Another important advantage of the double-sided deadbolt knob is that it also prevents potential kidnappers from hoodwinking the child into opening the doors from the inside.
House windows must have exterior metal grills to effectively prevent it from being an alternative exit route for headstrong kids. In case a new grillwork is not an amenable option due to certain architectural problems, parents must at least install motion sensor alarms. The shrill roaring of the siren always forces hypersensitive children to retreat – if not to alert the neighbors.
Lounge, Bath & Kitchen
Between the outside and the inside of the house, the latter proved to be the more labor-intensive setup. Fortunately, experts from the Autism Society of America acknowledge the significant impact of modifying home interiors for the overall safety of autistic children.
Granted, every home is unique and there are specific ways parents can apply the safety principle. But all of these methods can be categorized into four dimensions, namely: organization, isolation, suppression, and specification.
When it comes to organizing stuff, the furniture must be arranged methodically to prevent being the cause of injuries. Parents can limit the ways a curious child would navigate the surroundings by how the chairs, sofas, desks, and tables are arranged. As far as safety is concerned, none of these must be used as a foothold for climbing towards objects stored at elevated platforms or shelves.
Speaking of shelves, every item that can potentially injure autistic children must be kept out of sight and locked in sturdy containers (e.g. closets, cabinets, drawers and strongboxes). It is also important to consider some of the autistic children’s tendency for pica, and so these things (e.g. small toys, pills, dishwashing soap) must also be isolated.
Power outlets, kitchen appliances, and electronics with wirings are some of the dangerous things in the house that could not be isolated via relocation. It is possible to keep the kitchen walled off and barred by a door. But in case the interior layout disables this renovation option, parents can effectively suppress the use of dangerous devices by temporarily rigging stoves with knob covers and locking down access to electricity with outlet plug protectors.
As it happens, not every object at home can harm an autistic child. The actual number of non-threatening items is solely dependent on the child’s visual glossary. In order to cement his/her stored knowledge, parents must label things according to its proper use. It is an effective way to reinforce what to do and what not to do with certain objects.
Considering the autistic children’s visual comprehension, color-coding can also help them identify some of the things they can independently use (e.g. plastic glass and water dispenser), and the other things that require parental assistance (e.g. bathtub).
Privacy is one of the relatively difficult abstract concepts a parent can teach to his/her autistic child. A good foundation for cultivating this awareness begins in a place inside the house where one can operate with very little supervision or restriction. The child’s bedroom can serve as a studio and miniature indoor playground.
The same principles used for setting up the living room, bathroom and kitchen also apply to how things in the bedroom are put together. While the magnitude for precaution may be minimized, there are also other specific aspects that require serious adjustments.
According to a 2010 study published by the University of Rome (Italy), up to 80% of the autistic children have sleep problems. For the most part, they easily get distracted by the little sensory disturbances that non-ASD youngsters can easily ignore. If typical sleep-deprived children can get cranky, one can only imagine the more dangerous degree of irritability for kids with autism.
Aside from soundproofing the walls and window/s, parents must also replace noisy tick-tock wall clocks with muted electronic (preferably wireless) nightstand clocks. If soundproof renovation is not possible (though strongly recommended), one can have a white noise machine that can obscure nighttime noises from outside the window.
Other than auditory distractions, visual and sensory discomforts also cause sleeping difficulties. Specific modifications will also apply in terms of color choice (paint and objects), lighting quality, bedding, flooring, and even the specific variety of clothing (e.g. flannel pajamas).
When it comes to the wholesome pleasures and security precautions of outdoor play, animal companions can have a lasting positive effect on children with special needs. Apart from simply being four-legged family members, pets can be an autistic child’s bodyguard, non-verbal therapist, and even an effective personal assistant.
Several recommendable dog species can significantly lighten the burden of parental guidance and oversight – especially in terms of bringing special needs children to an unfamiliar outdoor setting. Parents ought to train them into certified service dogs for these following practical reasons:
- Service dogs can prevent children from fleeing (e.g. blocking the door/gate).
- Service dogs can track down ‘wanderers’ and/or chase ‘runners.’
- Service dogs can effectively scare away or fight off bullies.
- Service dogs can prevent tendencies for self-harm (e.g. snatch the screwdriver)
- Service dogs can perform a number of simple tasks (e.g. guide the harness).
- Service dogs can non-verbally report urgent child status to parents or guardians.
Monitoring & Tracking
Even with the number of safeguards in place, an autistic child may still find a way to break away from secure confinement. In case the first two preliminary defenses (e.g. deadbolt locks and fences) are breached, or non-existent to begin with; the last recourse parents can rely upon are real-time surveillance and GPS tracking systems.
Provided that things inside the house are properly arranged, one can limit the focus of interior surveillance cameras on the front and rear doors. After all, the risk of eloping outweighs the potential for inflicting self-harm via misplaced objects. Here are 2018’s five best home security systems integrating real-time visuals, alarms, and remote mobile monitoring:
- FrontPoint – best customer service
- Vivint – best technology
- ADT – most trusted brand
- Simplisafe – best DIY installation
- Protect America – best selling brand
As for the GPS system, the primary technical features worth considering include the memory tracking storage, augmented reality, proximity fence, signal, and radio communication. The top three GPS brands recommended by experts are…
- AngelSense – tracker: $150, monthly subscription: $45
- Weenect – tracker: $100, monthly subscription: $4 to $6
- Trax – tracker: $99, monthly subscription: $4 to $9
Pica Prevention & Control
The tendency of autistic children to commit self-harm is not only strictly limited to physical injuries acquired from tinkering with dangerous objects (e.g. knife, broken glass, flammable chemicals, etc). An even more severe case of self-harm involves consumption of non-edible items or substances – also best as ‘pica.’
What makes it very dangerous is that the physical harm is internal and comparatively more complicate to treat. An autistic child may want to eat something if they are drawn to the object’s color, smell, texture, or even sound. Here are some of the examples of preventive strategies parents can apply:
- Use visual charts to teach differentiation between edible and non-edible things.
- Reinforce ‘proper usage’ for non-edible things (e.g. shampoo = washing hair).
- Avoid displaying food replica ornaments (e.g. plastic fruit basket).
- Avoid food references on household chemical labels (e.g. strawberry detergent soap).
- Reward the child for resisting the urge to eat non-edible stuff.
- Reward the child affirmative speech (e.g. “Mom, I want a ham sandwich for dinner.”)
- Adjust rewards based on performance (e.g. no pica: 1 day = candy, 1 week = new toy)
- Strengthen knowledge of hierarchical nutritional values for food items.
- Adjust rewards according to the nutritional value of the child’s preference.
One of the most overlooked dangers associated with autistic children often concerns fires. According to the 2014-2016 Report compiled by the US Fire Administration, child’s play is categorized as the leading cause of house fires where ‘age is a factor.’ Within this age group, autistic kids are especially vulnerable due to their lack of understanding of life’s many dangers.
Aside from keeping matches and lighters locked away, parents must also install fire alarms inside their house. Whether or not the special needs child has caused the fire, any adult within the residential vicinity are able to respond faster before a worst case scenario. An autistic child has to be evacuated regardless of the degree of conflagration.
Securing the child’s distance from the danger zone has to be the top priority – one that even precedes any effort of extinguishing the flames. At the event that the house is being engulfed despite the initial efforts of first responders, it is very crucial for adult guardians to keep the special needs child closely guarded. They have the tendency to run back inside the burning building.
Preventing Hot Water Injuries
Fires can cause multiple degrees of burning to any child (or human being for that matter). Ironically for autistic kids, hot water is exponentially more blistering. After all, the subtlety of hot water (both for drinking and washing) even occasionally hoodwink adults who fail to pay close attention.
The notoriety of the deceptive nature of hot water is best highlighted in the 1994 product liability lawsuit by an elderly customer against McDonalds’s coffee. The inability to gauge the temperature remains to be the central issue, if not the principal cause of the complainant’s serious injury.
In this particular context, autistic children needed preventive interventions which may seem absurdly trivial for typical adults. Other than blisters, it is also possible to suffer cuts from broken glasses after flinching and accidentally dropping the hot brew. Here are a number of specific ways parents prevent accidents, especially in the absence of close supervision:
- Set the water heater only up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use vacuum-insulated tumbler for drinking hot beverages.
- Avoid serving hot drinks on breakable cups or glasses.
- Empty and unplug the electric kettle after use.
- Place visible warning signs on hot surfaces.
Chapter - 4
Prevention And Strategies
In the context of public security, the two crucial problems parents have to deal with concerns elopement and victimization.
Like the central theme of the 2011 science fiction film The Adjustment Bureau, an autistic child may inadvertently ‘become a fugitive of the normal program’ that is set to keep them safe.
A diverse but highly coordinated team can ‘keep the runner under control’ due to the parent’s vast oversight.
Working with First Responders
According to the 2017 mortality and risk analysis of eloping ASD children by the National Autistic Association (NAA), first responders comprise up to 51% of the successful non-lethal outcome of all possible rescue mechanisms. Whenever an autistic child flees from the immediate domestic radar, the first responders are expected to bring him/her back.
A search party for a missing child is usually composed of police officers, emergency medical staff, and even a fire truck team operating the ladder and crane. These people are certified experts whose sole occupation is dealing with stressful emergency situations.
Despite the competence and dedication of these emergency professionals, no other element magnifies pressure exponentially than extreme panic on the part of the parents. The odds of successful retrieval are guaranteed if their direct involvement proves to be a welcome assistance. Parents who keep calm allow first responders to perform their duties with a clearer focus. After all, these professionals are also emphatic human beings.
Another crucial way of working well with first responders is to provide an organized personal emergency profile; especially the type that includes visual aids (symbols) in order to facilitate non-verbal communication with the speech-impaired victims. Regardless of how the alert form is designed, the most crucial principle depends on its ability to answer the following questions:
- Does he/she have any monitoring equipment (e.g. GPS tracker)?
- How often does he/she for wandering or run away from home?
- Does he/she have any training in swimming?
- Does he/she have medical conditions aside from autism (e.g. asthma)?
- Does he/she have specific sensory issues (e.g. hates bright yellow)?
- Does he/she have specific fears and lures (e.g. likes freight trains)?
- Does he respond to being called by his/her name?
Working with Neighbors
As advised by law enforcement professionals, knowing one’s neighbors can significantly increase a household’s overall security. They can pretty much see any person entering and exiting the house across the street, hear the sound of the alarm, and even chase after the fleeing intruder (or in this particular case, a fleeing autistic child) long before the need for first responders is required.
Other than directly befriending a handful of households, one can go an extra mile by joining a neighborhood association. For someone with a firearm license and self-defense background, enlisting in a local crime watch also allows parents to connect with neighbors who are organized, vigilant, and downright passionate in their efforts of keeping their district safe.
For the neighbors to effectively prevent the child from running away, they should know exactly how they think and act. Hence, these chosen neighbors are also privy to the same exact details disclosed with the first responders.
Working with Teachers
Children in the US are spending an average of 6.64 hours per day on their education. This means a parent, even one that stays at home all day, will not be able to keep an eye on their kids within the aforementioned period. As mentioned earlier, more than half of the autistic kids are bullied by their classmates – hence, parents have more than 6 hours to wonder whether or not their child is safe.
One can argue that, in terms of public oversight and protection, coordinating with the school administration could prove to be the most stressful. Parents have to deal with an impartial institution to handle the special needs of children with learning disabilities.
Fortunately, public schools are legally bound to use an individualized education program (IEP). Prior to enrollment, an IEP meeting is conducted in order to comprehensively discuss the needs of the autistic child. Details that concern the program will determine the prescribed time a child would be spending with a special needs educator.
Despite the enormous advantage of the IEP meeting, it is also the one avenue where parents get off on the wrong foot with the school administration. There are those who would strong-arm the institution with a list of demands – some proving to be plainly unreasonable. Being an agitator, instead of an advocate, can severely hurt morale and compromise future joint efforts.
Since the objective is to become less of a stranger in school, a productive IEP meeting is just the start. Joining the parent-teacher association (PTA) and volunteering at school events can guarantee a certain degree of belongingness in the school – hence, allowing them to significantly increase oversight and protection in this unique public setting.
Tips To Prevent Elopements
Being a predominant issue that plagues families with autistic kids, prevention from wandering or elopement seems to entail a huge percentage of parental effort and investment. Some of the things mentioned in the earlier part of the article suggest specific security measures that accomplish two things: obstructing the possible means of escape and a successful recovery of the lost child.
The key to formulating a foolproof prevention strategy entails a deeper understanding of why an autistic child does it in the first place. A discerning parent must investigate how each of the five basic motivations applies in specific contexts. Beginning with an inquisitive approach always points concerned parents at the right direction.
- Goal: Leisurely exploration
- Ask: Why is the child curious to go outside?
- Tip 1: Walk with the child outside frequently.
- Tip 2: Take long detours and avoid shortcuts.
- Tip 3: Strictly abide by the proposed walk schedule.
- Tip 4: Discourage unsupervised escapades (e.g. cautionary tales).
- Goal: Reaching a target location (to satisfy special interests)
- Ask: Why does the child love to visit this place?
- Tip 1: Identify the most frequently visited location outside the house.
- Tip 2: Examine the child’s favorite media (e.g. video games) for hints.
- Tip 3: Provide plenty of stimulating avenues indoors.
- Tip 4: Increase participation in the child’s indoor activities.
- Goal: Escaping an unpleasant stimuli
- Ask: What possible problems chased the child out of the house?
- Tip 1: Examine the lighting quality and noise scale inside the house.
- Tip 2: Avoid loud arguments with other members of the household.
- Tip 3: Find out whether or not the child feels comfortable at bedtime.
- Tip 4: Make the outdoor perimeters very uncomfortable (e.g. glaring night lights).
Chapter - 5
Safety Tips For Autistic Kids
If there is one aspect of lifestyle that can make a tremendous (if not all-encompassing) difference, it is the task of safeguarding their health. It is also important to understand that the overall complexity of autism as a health issue is not only restricted to the mental aspect.
A number of associated physical conditions also require a keen attention and a greater deal of effective management. The prevention of illness is crucial in the overall parental efforts. It is comparatively more dangerous and/or complicated for an autistic child to become physically ill.
Several decades of study dedicated to uncovering the genetic anomalies that yielded the autism spectrum disorder have also unearthed one inconvenient truth. Autism and immunodeficiency are proven to be more intertwined than coincidental. According to the Autism Research Institute, here are some of the ways the immune system malfunctions for the physically ill autistic child:
- Defective immunity: unable to fight against infectious disease
- Hypersensitivity: extreme allergic reaction to foreign bodies
- Inflammation: damaged tissue caused by an excessive attack against invaders
- Autoimmunity: healthy cells under attack by the immune system
The American Academy of Family Physicians published a study in 2016 concerning the principles of primary care targeting people with autism – with a special emphasis on younger patients. All of the associated conditions illustrated in one of their tabular findings clearly demonstrate the importance of treating both physical and psychiatric conditions with drug medication.
Drug Adverse Effects
While drugs keep any child safe, it does not necessarily follow that medications by themselves are also not potentially risky. Choosing the right meds for autistic children can be an extremely delicate task – one with hair-trigger perils reminiscent of their very own less-predictable outbursts.
For an autistic child with certain undiagnosed immune glitches, the possibility for allergic reactions to certain drugs could be broader and more severe. It is not entirely the parents’ job to mentally grapple with these medical complications. However, it pays to be a little knowledgeable in order to have a fruitful consultation with the attending general physician.
In 2018, a study conducted by the Swansea University (UK) discovered the higher health risks associated with young ASD patients who are given more antipsychotic medication. Results reveal comparatively higher rates of hospitalization due to injuries and side effects. The study’s conclusion also considered long-term health complications on top of immediate adverse effects.
Parents are within their rights to request any safe alternative non-pharmaceutical treatment for psychiatric issues. But if doctors would strongly recommend a certain drug and stake one’s medical license on their prescription, it could be because they guarantee a treatment that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration – examples of which include…
- For aggression, deliberate self-harm, and temper tantrums
- Risperidone (Risperidal)
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- For obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Audio/Visual Cure Methods
Several previous parts of this article have discussed in detail the numerous possible dangers that autistic children would face in their lives. Parents have the obligation to know which of the things, practices, and mindset should be avoided. However, the life of an autistic child should not be defined solely by restrictions.
In terms of a safety-oriented lifestyle, autistic children must also embrace learning new things. The traditional method of learning and intelligence assessment puts them at a disadvantage since these principles are typically designed for their non-ASD peers. In order to level the playing field, parents take advantage of music therapy and (as unorthodox as it sounds) video games.
- Music Therapy
For nearly two decades, three successful studies have demonstrated how music as a therapeutic intervention enables significant positive influence on young people with ASD. A study published in 2004 by the Journal of Music Therapy of Florida State University (FL, USA) was a pioneering literature that reveals the benefits of music therapy in the following areas of learning:
- Social behavior
- Mental focus
- Body awareness
- Motor coordination
In connection to improving verbal communication, an article published by a research team in Duke University (NC, USA) explains why music therapy plays a crucial role in improving the autistic child’s speech, vocabulary, and word comprehension. According to Music Therapy, Autism, and Language by Paige Scarbrough, MRI scans reveal that music produces considerable activity in the Broca’s area – a part of the brain that processes language.
In a joint study published in 2009 by Jeonju University (South Korea), Alborg University (Denmark), and Unifob Health (Norway); it was discovered that autistic children tend to respond more effectively to social cues under the influence of music. Through a medium that causes heightened EQ, autistic children are more likely to exhibit the following target behaviors crucial for emotional, motivational, and interpersonal development:
- Express joy (smile or laugh)
- Share feelings with another
- Initiate social interaction
- Comply with requests
In 2013, University Putra Malaysia published a study confirming the positive effects of music therapy in terms of enhancing sustained mental focus. More than half of the 41 ASD-diagnosed children in a regular hourly music therapy showed remarkable improvement after ten months. Music reduces anxiety, specifically in terms of the following behavioral challenges that make some autistic children very inattentive:
- Video games
In contemporary times, reality is comprised of two dimensions – the physical world and the virtual world. No other aspect of virtual reality brings so much excitement and industry than video games. All children, even including adults born in the 80’s, love to play video games.
Despite being the most popular form of entertainment for the past two decades, video games also had its own share of critics. A significant volume of articles (substantiated or hyped) has pointed to video games being the singular cause of inattention, hyperactivity and oppositional defiant behavior among the youth – with worse consequences leading to chronic health problems and a strong tendency to commit violent crimes.
The extremes in terms of lure and opposition have practically left everyone unsure when it comes to this question: Are video games safe? While parents could be wary of its effects to their autistic children, it is interesting to take note that some of these advantages tend to be more beneficial for them than for their non-ASD peers:
- Balance and motor skills
- Flexibility and emotional resilience
- Improving social skills
- Gaining motivation
The University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI, USA) published a study in 2017 confirming the correlation between improved balance and video game. 29 youngsters between the ages of 7 to 17 completed a six-week training program using a ‘kinesiology console’ (Microsoft Kinect camera and Nintendo Wii balance board). By the end of the program, participants maintained better posture and physical equilibrium outside of the game environment.
In 2015, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) started a Peer Mentoring program for autistic youngsters – with successful autistic adults being the life coaches/instructors instead of professional authority figures. Video games and its pop culture references have been used as a thriving medium (as a point of common interest) not only for promoting decent conversation but even instilling important values (e.g. love, honor, courage, etc).
While video games prove to be a suitable medium to enhance learning, there are also limitations regarding its use. After all, autistic children tend to be hypersensitive and it might not be safe for those who are easily stressed with flickering lights. There is also a question of subject content that is critical to shaping the child’s behavior.
In terms of duration, experts in the Organization for Autism Research recommend no more than an average of 2.4 hours per day. Since autistic kids are naturally predisposed to structure/order, parents must enforce a strict video game schedule that helps curtail addictive gaming patterns.
It was also concluded that RPG games governed by steep levels of progression and predetermined narrative are not a recommendable genre. An extensive storyline keeps players hooked; hence, cultivating a serious inability to disengage from successive tasks (quests). First person shooter, fighting, racing, platform, and puzzle games are more suitable as it encourages fast reflexes, accuracy, a keen sense of timing, and analytical skills.
Chapter - 6
Enhanced Through Physical Activities
Throughout the entire discussion covered in this article, the definition of danger directly affecting the lives of autistic children are almost entirely comprised of hazards that cause physical injury. As a result, some parents are likely to treat their autistic children as if they are made of glass.
Of all the productive lifestyle practices a child with ASD can have, physical development through sports or athletic training tend to be the most neglected (if not outright discouraged). In fact, a collaborative study in 2014 conducted by the Oregon State University (OR, USA) and University of Alabama (AL, USA) confirmed that children with ASD are less likely to be physically active than their non-ASD peers.
In effect, as backed by a research published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry in 2014, autistic children are slightly more at risk of child obesity than their non-ASD peers. Autistic children are more susceptible to acquired stress-related conditions like sleep deprivation and unhealthy diet – both of which could adversely affect weight and the potential chronic illnesses that may arise later on (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, etc.)
Autistic children must not be deprived of a healthy avenue that allows them to develop strength and vigor and vent out their pent-up anxiety at the same time. They can live life to the fullest by getting into swimming, sports, and martial arts.
Any child without special needs can pretty much learn swimming very easily. Further pursuit of it (especially as a career choice) bears little consequence to his/her future. But for an autistic child, learning how to swim is pretty much one of the most important physical life skills he/she can learn. In fact, swimming skill is the one thing that prevents the common cause of mortality among wandering autistic kids.
Autistic children are extremely drawn to large bodies of water. The irresistible lure usually comes from the sight and sound of its flow/current and the soothing coolness felt when dipping their skin. Unsurprisingly, around 70% to 90% of all lethal recovery of lost wandering autistic children is a result of drowning.
Acquiring a good muscle memory for swimming is the best physical education a parent can give to an autistic child. Knowing how to swim not only gave autistic children a new fun hobby. This training is also the key to changing the world’s common (and misunderstood) perception of him/her – being seen as a capable survivor instead of a helpless victim.
People can hardly identify more than 10 ASD-diagnosed professional athletes in the United States and Europe combined. Should one make an academic guess based on this extremely limited data, very obvious point states that sports and autism rarely matches. A special pattern can be seen among world-famous athletes through their chosen sport.
According to the Linden Attention Learning Center (CA, USA), many athletes with Asperger’s Syndrome (usually undiagnosed) excel in ‘technical positions.’ An autistic child will do well in sports wherein the importance of physical strength is often subordinate to mental acuity.
Parents should choose a sport in which ‘individual competence’ can make a lot of (if not all the) difference. The three greatest advantages an autistic player has in sports include the following:
- Hyper-focus: the ability to practice repetitive routines for a longer duration.
- Technical precision: a very keen emphasis on the exact/perfect execution of maneuvers.
- Calmness under pressure: primarily due to muted fear/emotional response.
As the boxing legend, Muhammad Ali quote, “It isn’t the mountain ahead of the climb that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” In terms of selecting a sport, parents must also consider the specific challenges that prevent their child from overcoming ‘relevant obstacles.’ These areas of ASD-related difficulty can be categorized into these three basic aspects:
- Communication: problems in absorbing/relaying verbal cues at real-time tempo.
- Hypersensitivity: problems with light, loud sound, and uncomfortable texture.
- Empathy: problems the teamwork, particularly with group rapport.
Astute awareness of an autistic child’s strengths and weaknesses is crucial to choosing the perfect sport. Any sport, whether individual or team-based solo performance (e.g. swimming team), must cultivate the body, mind, and spirit. It is better to have one than none at all.
Martial arts encapsulate a singular physical activity that is both designed for self-preservation (like swimming) and cultivate the body, mind, spirit (like sports). Martial arts empower every person with the right training and mindset to become stronger, faster, and even wiser.
An even more interesting fact is that, unlike sports, martial arts and autism is always a perfect match. From Taekwondo to Krav Maga, parents can choose any discipline and all of them are appropriate for autistic children.
A systematic review published in 2017 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (China) documents the specific health advantages autistic children can gain from practicing martial arts. Martial arts training for ASD-diagnosed youth…
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves posture and balance
- Improves self-control
- Enables better emotional management
- Reduces persistent repetitive behavior
- Reduces communication deficits
Granted, autism is a permanent condition. However, consistent training helps set in place habits that keep a number of psychological paroxysms in check – which would have exacerbated if otherwise left alone. Here are some of the reasons why martial arts works are viable for autistic practitioners:
- All aspects of training are structured by protocols (e.g. bowing).
- Practicing specific techniques is repetitive and hyper-focused.
- Execution of techniques requires proper body mechanics.
- Retention of techniques requires sequenced choreography (e.g. kata).
- Verbal and non-verbal cues are simple, direct, and orderly.
- Drills (e.g. sparring) entail a good release of pent-up tension.
- Progress and reward systems are predictable and objective.
- The indoor training environment is relatively sensory-friendly.
As the Krav Maga founder Emrich Lichtenfeld said, “[Train,] so that one may walk in peace.” To an autistic child (and his/her parents), martial arts are paving the way of life defined by this unassailable and tangible ‘inner peace.’
The earlier part of the article has mentioned several crucial points that discuss the dangers of an autistic child in a public setting. Experts would advise an extraordinary amount of vigilance, especially since a huge percentage of autistic children are considered flight risks. Some parents can’t help but embrace a zero-tolerance approach in the sacred name of safety.
Granted, it is also worth reassessing whether or not parents have a healthy apprehension regarding the issue of outdoor play. Should the natural world be completely off-limits to children with sensory issues and muted fear response? In the name of living a quality way of life, some experts are also inclined to disagree.
Proponents of outdoor play believe that children (with or without ASD) are becoming environmentally discordant (if not downright abusive). In 2005, the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ was coined to describe a broad array of learning/coping shortfalls as a result of general alienation from nature.
In the book titled Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, it was theorized that mass media played a huge role in causing panic among parents concerning the exposure of their children to a so-called ‘hostile’ rural environment. This resulted in a practice of keeping youngsters cooped indoors, inheriting the serious physical, cognitive, and emotional side effects of unhealthy inactivity.
Under the stewardship of ‘helicopter parents’ raising children with special needs, the degree of nature-deficit disorder is relatively magnified. After all, it is important to acknowledge the greater impact of sensory processing issues and other learning disabilities.
A 2016 study based in Israel has confirmed the positive outcomes of a 13-week ‘outdoor adventure program’ for young children diagnosed with ASD. Here are a number of benefits autistic kids can acquire from a healthy outdoor play:
- Improved 4C skills
- Critical thinking
- Improved empathy towards nature
- Improved balance and coordination
- Reduced typical autism symptoms
Parents have the obligation to manage healthy outdoor play for their autistic children. Their efforts are going to be directly determined by a balance of dual principles – an increase of outdoor exposure and prevention of outdoor hazards.
Promoting safe and wholesome outdoor play for autistic children can come in various forms. The simplest and low-risk type of activity can be performed at the fenced lawn/backyard. It could be anything from yoga to dodgeball. Parents engaged in outdoor play are already contributing in the inconspicuous but noteworthy campaign against nature-deficit disorder.
Pushing fun to the next level requires setting outdoor play beyond the residential comfort zone. In other words, parents could consider camping as a viable alternative. These are the three main options discerning parents can choose from:
- Option 1 – Special Needs Camp
- Pros: It provides expert care and an environment customized for safety.
- Cons: The fee is costly, the venue is far, and/or entails limited parental involvement.
- Option 2 – Mainstream Community Camp
- Pros: It is close to home, inexpensive, and promotes diverse social interactions.
- Cons: The level of supervision is subpar and/or the child could be neglected.
- Option 3 – Do-it-yourself Camp
- Pros: It strengthens family bonds and has little to zero crowd control/management.
- Cons: It is very labor-intensive and a disorganized checklist can accrue higher costs.
Parents who are inclined to consider Options 2 and 3 are definitely required to increase their level of vigilance towards flight risk children. Parents could dress their autistic kids with a toddler harness. A backpack design has up to four practical merits:
- Balanced tension distribution, equally concentrated on the upper and lower torso
- Reinforces the autistic child’s higher sense of propriety (e.g. backpacking = outdoors)
- Subtly removes the obvious unsavory moral undertones (e.g. human leash)
- Stores important/intimate items while on the move (e.g. snacks, water, toy, etc.)
Chapter - 7
The school is the one particular setting wherein the rampant problem of elopement is being relegated as a mere (and almost negligible) symptom of a bigger concern. As mentioned earlier, bullying is the greatest source of anxiety for parents of autistic kids within class hours.
As mentioned earlier, bullying is a problem that requires the concerted effort of both parents and school staff. A parent’s active role is constrained by his/her relative absence (or limited access) in the campus grounds. A school employee, on the other hand, is inhibited by coverage of his/her official responsibility in line with the sheer number of school children.
A systematic approach to a successful anti-bullying prevention can be summarized into 3 R’s. Every responsible adult in the campus must learn to apply through these chronological methods…
- Recognize that:
- Bullying is very rampant and it affects all school children.
- Children with ASD are perfect victims due to their condition.
- Incidents more likely occur in other (nonclassroom) sites in the campus.
- Respond with (or by teaching):
- Calmness under pressure
- Assertive body language
- Long-drawn-out eye contact (with the bully)
- Mastery of strong verbal spiels (e.g. “stop!”)
- Report incidents by:
- Filing a complaint or testimony.
- Presenting evidence (if there is any)
- Requesting a formal investigation and resolution
Chapter - 8
While wandering remains to be one of the most troublesome behaviors parents have to contend with their autistic children, it is interesting to consider how certain parameters affect varying degrees of flight risk. A perfect example concerns the comparative likelihood between a child that eloped from home and one that escaped adult supervision in public space.
Obviously, the level of vigilance required to keep the child from wandering in public is exponentially higher – one that almost leaves no margin for error. Unlike the residential grounds, parents practically have no way of controlling the child’s means of escape.
There is no question that working with first responders, school staff, and neighbors/bystanders is critical to recovering the child separated from their adult guardians. However, any responsible parent must aspire for more than just safe recovery – especially for those who do not have adequate tracking and restraining instruments.
Foolproof prevention is difficult at best, but not entirely impossible. Here are a number of practical security conditions and their advantages:
- Having at least two adults (with one of the same sex) accompanying a child.
- Advantage 1: Helps shift equal responsibility for oversight.
- Advantage 2: Prevents divided attention caused by multi-tasking.
- Advantage 3: Ensures close supervision inside public restrooms.
- Carrying the child when passing through a crowded area.
- Advantage 1: Prevents the child from drifting into the midst of human traffic.
- Advantage 2: Provides a degree of physical comfort from sensory overload.
- Advantage 3: Helps closely monitor discomforts that trigger meltdown (e.g. hunger).
- Keeping the child occupied with video games and music player while on the move.
- Advantage 1: Helps block out unpleasant stimuli (e.g. noise pollution).
- Advantage 2: Prevents curiosity-driven urge to break free and run.