Avoiding Bumps in the Road:

Five Tips for Keeping Children with Autism Safely Seated in the Car.

Parents who have a child with autism understand what a challenge it can be to keep them seated and secure when riding in the car. If your child is like mine, a short trip to the grocery store can quickly turn into a dangerous situation. This is especially true when a child is old enough to unbuckle the seat belt.

As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at The Behavior Exchange, I often get questions from clients about how to best handle the car situation. In the hope of empowering more parents, below are five tips you can put into action and help keep your child and family safe on the road.

Tip #1

Prime your child for the trip beforehand.

Tell them where you’re going and what will happen when you get there. In other words, set their expectations to eliminate surprises.

Tip #2

Identify something positive your child can have after the car ride.

It’s always a good idea, even with children who aren’t on the spectrum, to reward good behavior after a task is completed. If/then language is useful in this situation.

Tip #3

Have set toys in the car for your child to play with during the trip.

Help them focus on another activity during the trip.

Tip #4

If your child is verbal, talk to them about things you see while driving.

This is another way to refocus their attention. It also helps to make them feel a part of the journey. 

Tip #5

Consistently praise your child for sitting nicely in the car.

Positive reinforcement can go along way in turning unwanted behavior into the desired behavior.

If you’re interested in learning more ABA therapy techniques you can use at home or when you’re out and about with your child, sign up for Parent Training!

Solutions for Older Children

A new challenge arises when your child grows out of a harness child seat. At that point, they could learn to unbuckle a standard seatbelt. The tips above are still proactive strategies to help keep your child stay in their seat.

In addition, there are now safety devices on the market that slip over the seat buckle and prevent your child from unbuckling. Do a Google search and products like this, this, and this come up. I don’t endorse any of these solutions, so please read buyer reviews and shop around before purchasing.  

Has your child learned how to slip under the seat belt to get out? It can be a scary and defeating situation when it happens. All is not lost! There are safety harnesses you can purchase that make it very difficult for your child to wiggle out of.

It’s important to note these harnesses can be pricey. However, you may be able to get one through insurance as a medically necessary device with a prescription from a physical therapist. It depends on your insurance plan and if the therapist is willing to write you a prescription. If this is something you’re concerned about, speak with your pediatrician for recommendations and/or referrals.  

I really hope these tips help with your individual situation. If you’d like to learn more about The Behavior Exchange, please explore our website or contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

This blog post was written by Arty Czarobski, BCBA.





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