Pools are opening and warm weather activities are in full swing! Safety concerns often become heightened once the weather starts getting warmer, especially for families of children with autism. Here are some helpful summer safety tips so you can relax and enjoy the summer with your child.
No matter how much you prepare and teach, there are bound to be unexpected incidents from time to time that require you to take immediate action. Preparing in advance can significantly reduce stress and help you stay calm when these situations arise.
1. Create an Emergency Plan
- Create an emergency card or flyer in advance, both print and digital formats, to have “on hand” and provide to first responders in the event of an incident. The card/flyer should include a current photo of your child, emergency contact information and effective ways to approach, communicate with, and calm your child.
- Use social stories to teach your child how to handle different emergency situations, or if verbal, how and when to call 911.
- Participate in local community safety fairs where there are opportunities to meet actual police, firefighters, and emergency response professionals that work in your community in an environment that is friendly and fun. This may increase the chances that your child will respond positively to first responders in the future.
2. Inform Neighbors
- Introduce your child to your neighbors and make them aware that he or she has special needs. You can explain what Autism is, along with some of your child’s behaviors that may not seem “normal” to others.
- Provide neighbors with the “emergency card/flyer” you created which includes a recent picture of your child, emergency contact information and effective ways to approach, communicate with, and calm your child. Request neighbors to contact you immediately if they see your child outside your home or property.
3. Get Information to Emergency Responders
- Consider providing a print & digital copy of the “emergency card” you have created to your local police department, fire department and 911 center.
If available in your area,
These information sharing programs are intended for local residents who are at high risk of becoming lost or disoriented and need special assistance.
Parents of children with autism often say that wandering is among the most stressful autism related behaviors. Children with autism are much more likely to act impulsively, including running away. If your child wanders, here are some additional safety strategies to help make your summer a more relaxed experience.
1. Create a Family Wandering Safety Plan
- Have your plan visible and easily accessible should an incident arise.
2. Safety Proof Your Home
- Use deadbolt locks
- Keep doors and windows locked
- Install an alarm or alert chimes on doors
3. Take Advantage of Technology
- Use GPS trackers and/or tags
- Use cell phone and tablet tracker/locator apps
- Use “smart” devices like specialized door locks or web cams that send alerts to you phone when motion is detected.
4. Arm Your Child With Communication
- Have your child wear an ID bracelet or necklace with their name and special need along with emergency contact information.
- Teach your child a key word like “help” to use in an emergency.
5. Make it visual
- Create a visual safety book for your child with key questions and answers they may be asked in an emergency situation.
- If your child responds well to visual cues, consider placing STOPor DO NOT ENTER signs in bright colors and fun shapes on all doors that open to the outside.
- Practice, practice practice.
Reiterate there is no outside time without an adult present, especially if you are staying with friends or family during a summer trip somewhere unfamiliar.
Drowning is a leading cause of death of children with autism. Many children with Autism are powerfully drawn to the water but do not understand the dangers, putting them at much higher risk of drowning. Children with autism are 5 to 14 times more likely to drown than children without autism. Here are some water safety tips to help make summer safe and fun for your family.
1. Adult Supervision Makes All the Difference
- Siblings and other children should never provide supervision, even for children who know how to swim.
- Adults should have a safety plan in place in case a child in their supervision needs assistance.
- Be familiar with how to use the water safety equipment that is available.
- Learn CPR – it can save lives and improve outcomes for drowning victims.
- Always call 911 for immediate assistance if a drowning incident occurs.
2. When In or Around Open Water
- ALWAYS be within arm’s reach of your child.
- Drain bathtubs and other small containers of water when you are finished using them – a child can drown in only an inch of water.
- Put safety locks on toilet seats and hot tubs and monitor or cover landscape ponds if you can.
3. Teach Your Child to Swim as Early as Possible
- Swim lessons drastically reduce the risk of drowning among children ages 1 to 4.
- Check with local public pools and organizations like the YMCA for swim classes that cater to children with special needs.
- Some swim programs even offer scholarships and free lessons to help teach all children how to swim.
4. Life Jackets Save Lives
- Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while around open bodies of water, on boats, or when participating in water sports.
- Make sure the life jacket fits tightly. To check the correct fit of the life jacket, have your child do a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits your child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
- Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD).
5. If You Have a Pool
- Invest in a four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) and ensure it is properly installed.
- Four-sided fencing can reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
- If you neighbor has a pool, it’s important to speak to them about covering it or keeping it closed off from your child.
- Keep fence gates secure with hook-and-eye locks well out of their reach.
These tips will help you be prepared to have a safe, fun and relaxing summer with your family.
The Behavior Exchange is an accredited ABA service provider and can help your child achieve goals that support summer safety. Contact us today at 972.312.8733 to learn more about our quality ABA services and centers located in Frisco, Plano and Prosper, Texas as well as Boulder, Colorado.