Summer Safety Tips for Families of Children with Autism

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.

Be Prepared

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,

  • Submit a disability indicator form to your local law enforcement agency to help alert law enforcement that a person residing at your address may require special assistance during an emergency.
  • Register your family on Smart911.
  • Enroll in the Take Me Home program through your local police department.

These information sharing programs are intended for local residents who are at high risk of becoming lost or disoriented and need special assistance.

Wandering Safety

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.

Water Safety

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.  

The Behavior Exchange is a 3-year Accredited Behavior Health Center of Excellence® and an in-network provider. 

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Alina grew up in a military household and had the opportunity to live in many different places from Okinawa, Japan and San Diego, California, to Michigan and Texas. Her experience connecting with new people and adapting to new environments and situations was perfect for a future HR leader.

She began her career as an HR Manager for Target and has since gone on to build an HR department for iFLY Indoor Skydiving, headquartered in Austin, TX, and restructure the HR department at Dallam Hartley Counties Hospital District in West Texas. Most recently, Alina served as the HR Business Partner at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Her HR specialties include Employee Relations, Performance Management, Organizational Design, and Employee Engagement, and she holds a certification in Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR) from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Alina moved to the Dallas area in 2020 with her husband who’s a high school football coach, their two girls Kiyomi and Ava, and a Cavalier King Charles named Bella. In her spare time, Alina has fun using her aesthetician license doing make up for bridal parties, proms, and special events.

Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

As Supervisor of Technology, Marvin is charged with the creation of strategic IT initiatives that align with the mission, culture and long-term goals of The Behavior Exchange. He works closely with Directors, BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts), RBTs (Registered Behavior Therapists), and administrative staff to deliver innovative technologies and services that enhance teaching, learning, research, and client activities.

Marvin’s commitment to the success of The Behavior Exchange and its clients has resulted in improved data collection, analysis, mobile device management, and cloud-based file management infrastructure. Marvin graduated form the University of Texas in San Antonio with a BA in Psychology 2004. After graduating, Marvin wanted to give back to his community by dedicating his time commitment to provide a civil service. Marvin for which he commited 8 years to be a probation officer in Bexar County Tx. When the opportunity to join The Behavior Exchange arose Marvin jumped at the chance to continue to provide services for those in need and to work for an amazing organization and cause.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.