Autism-Friendly Home Tips
Creating a safe home for an autistic child is essential. We look at some of the safety and security considerations and other tips for making a safe home.
Tips for Child-Proofing and Keeping Your House Safe for an Autistic Child
Household safety is one of the primary concerns of all parents. This is a concern that tends to escalate when babies start to crawl around the house, and baby-proofing the home becomes a priority for parents.
Home safety for an autistic child comes with the same concerns. However, unique risks also mean typical house safety concerns become more serious based on your child’s individual nature.
In this article, we are going to look at the unique challenges in creating an autism-friendly house, why autistic children may need extra home security, and how to appropriately child-proof your home for your autistic child.
Why is child-proofing the home more of a challenge for autistic children?
Child-proofing can be particularly challenging for parents or caregivers with an autistic child. Autistic children tend to fixate on certain items or display sensory-seeking behaviors. They could fixate on a dangerous item, or their fixation could simply leave them unaware of the possible dangers around them. Additionally, some autistic children have a propensity to try to elope or run from their homes on a regular basis, for a variety of reasons.
As a result of this, typical child-proofing concerns can become more serious depending on what your child is interested in. Some of the biggest concerns can include:
- Sensory fixation on water, fire, fans, or other items.
- Accessing dangerous items like medications, sharp objects, chemicals, and electrical outlets.
- Climbing on furniture and then jumping, falling, or having the furniture fall on them.
- Leaving the house through a window or door without someone knowing.
Use home safety as a learning opportunity
The first step to creating a safe environment for a child with autism is to use your home as a learning environment. While removing your child from dangerous situations is important, it’s also a good idea to teach them home safety like you would any other skill.
Use positive reinforcement when your child performs a home safety skill correctly or when they refrain from doing something that you’ve taught them is unsafe. Remember to keep home safety steps short and simple.
You can use the usual tools that would be used in a therapy session or when teaching them skills at home, such as visual rules, checklists, signs, stories, and schedules. Choose whatever it is that your child has had success with in other settings in the past.
Some ideas include the following:
Label everyday items
Using visual aids like photos, words, colors, and textures to label everyday appliances, furniture, rooms, drawers, etc., will help your child to more easily associate the items with where they go or what their purpose is. Labels increase the likelihood of your child using something for its intended purpose and discourage unsafe behaviors.
Create visual boundaries and limits
Telling your child not to walk out the front door isn’t enough. Use visuals to relay the message more clearly. You could place stop signs on doors that lead outside or to stairs or on drawers that they shouldn’t open. Or you could mark the floor with painter’s tape to show where they shouldn’t walk close to hazardous furniture.
Keep things organized and in place
Autistic children are often creatures of habit and structure. Keeping things tidy and in their place means children will know where to find things and where to put them once they are done. This will lead to less frustration, making them less likely to engage in unsafe behaviors.
Home modifications for autistic children
If you’re wondering how to make your home autism-friendly, here are some of the modifications that you can make:
- Move furniture away from where kids could climb it. Invest in some sensory appropriate climbing furniture products instead to encourage safer behaviors.
- Ensure all furniture is mounted to the floor or wall.
- Use gates and barriers at the top and bottom of stairs to keep them from climbing and falling down.
- Put all medications out of reach.
- Put rubber bumpers on the sharp edges of counters or furniture.
- Hide wires or place them out of reach.
- Lock away cleaning suppliers, toiletries, and other hazardous chemicals.
- Educate your child about fire safety through stories about smoke detectors and safety routines. Lock away all matches and lighters.
- Put covers on electrical outlets and protection on door knobs, cabinet handles, faucets, etc.
- Add sensors to areas that your child should not be in, so you are aware of where they are in the home.
As mentioned, some autistic children are known to try and wander off or escape from their houses, so home security is another aspect to consider. This can include:
Install locks and sensors
Install locks or sensors on the home’s doors, windows, and cabinets. Autistic children are resourceful, so investing in a high-quality locking system is worth it.
Safely store away potentially hazardous items
Lock and store potential hazards like paint, fertilizer, and cleaners somewhere out of your child’s day-to-day environment, such as the garage or basement.
Install sensory-friendly alarms
Install alarms on their bedroom door, doors leading outside, and windows. Of course, keep in mind that an alarm could be intolerable for a child with sensory issues. Usually, the alarm can be tailored to your child’s specific needs.
Explain “stranger danger”
Chances are that your child will open the door when it rings at some stage in their life. It’s important to teach them the dangers of opening the door to strangers and learning who they can trust. Allistic (non-autistic) children are more likely to be able to read people’s intentions, whereas autistic children tend to be naturally trusting. This is an important lesson they can take into adulthood, too.
Always have an emergency plan in place
It’s critical that you have an emergency plan in place should something happen. The first port of call should always be to phone 911 and alert the appropriate authorities. All of the relevant emergency numbers should be on hand around your house and in your vehicles. Providing your child a safety bracelet with their name and emergency contact details may also be useful. If they do not like the feeling of a bracelet, then give a laminated card with emergency contact numbers for them to keep at all times or label each piece of their clothing with the same information.
If your child has a history of elopement or unsafe behaviors in the home, contact your local police department so they know who your child is, where you live, what they might do and where they might go based on past experience. It is always easier to communicate this information proactively than in a crisis situation.
Create a quiet space for your autistic child at home
Remember, when preparing for autism at home, that an autistic child is more likely to act out when they become overstimulated. In this case, they will need a safe time-out space to refocus.
Instead of punishing them with a time-out in a corner, create a dedicated space that they can have to themselves to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet, or engage in whatever self soothing strategies work for them. If you continually direct them to this space when they get overstimulated, you teach them a better way to cope with and handle stress. Make the space soft, neutral, and welcoming with your child’s favorite toys.
Get the best for you and your child with LAC
At Lighthouse Autism Center, we equip our learners and their caretakers with the tools and strategies needed to enhance growth and development through our Lighthouse fusion ABA therapy. We also offer a wide array of the best autism resources and information for our clients to turn to and help your child take the important next step in their journey.
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