For many children with autism, life outside of the home can be scary and anxiety-provoking. There are loud noises, changing weather conditions, and sometimes unexpected surprises. Home can be a true sanctuary where things are consistent and predictable. Many children enjoy sticking to their routine at home. Much like the way new parents begin to babyproof a home when their little ones begin to explore, parents raising children with special needs need to take extra precautions and consider childproofing their homes. Here are some simple things to consider when childproofing for a child with autism or other special needs.
Locks! Locks! Locks!
Numerous studies confirm that wandering and elopement are very real dangers for families with a child with Autism. Consider installing a security system in your home. Some systems have alarms chime each time a door is opened, others can even send a sigal or text alerting you of such activity in your home. If a home security system isn’t in your budget, you might consider deadbolts high enough so that your child cannot reach. My own child is almost as tall as I am, so that wouldn’t work in my home! You might consider hiring a locksmith to install key-lock door knobs and window locks. Just be sure you have an easy and efficient way to escape the home in case of emergency! Fences and gates are another way to keep a child from wandering off the property, but still allowing him the chance to spend time outdoors. Remember that our kids can be very adept at clibming, so take this into consideration when choosing fencing options.
Blind and Drapery Cords
Because of the choking hazard that both blind and drapery cords bring, be sure to properly secure them to wall. Cutting the “loop” of the cords can help, too.
This is often the first thing people think of when they hear “childproofing” and it’s also one of the easiest fixes to implement. Outlet plugs are cheap and easy to find and can certainly keep a child safe.
Secure Household Cleaners and Medications
Never underestimate your child’s curiosity. Often times, cleaners are scented and might be inviting to a child. As well, some are gooey and look like sensory fun. Newer laundry and dishwasher detergent pods almost look like candy and we never, ever want our children to find out the hard way that they are not. Use cabinet locks, place items far out of a child’s reach, or even consider keeping all dangerous items in a room or closet with a lock on it.
Use Appropriate Identification
Some families place a decal or sign in the window stating “Child with special needs lives here. May not respond to requests or demands”. This is important in case of emergency. Many families opt for a medical ID bracelet listing a name and phone number, too. Check out the brilliant way I taught my daughter our phone and address!
Consider the Not-So-Obvious
Many children mouth objects or have a hard time understanding what is truly edible and what isn’t. For this reason, keep things like kitty litter, houseplants, flowers, and any garbage secured. All tools and power tools should be kept in a secure place, as well.
With so many things to worry about, we try to keep our homes a sanctuary for our families, but it’s imperative that we work to keep our spaces safe. The bottom line is, consider every little thing. You’re not just makinf things safer for your child, but also protecting your home and possessions. We’ll always worry, but it’s nice to have a few things to feel at ease about!
Got any other suggestions for childproofing for a child with autism? Please leave them in the comments!