By: Ashley Taylor
If you have a child on the autism spectrum, safety can be a real concern. In fact, many children on the spectrum are unaware of the dangers around them. You can help your child, though, by designing a backyard that she can safely use.
Difficulties Your Child May Experience
Your child may have a number of issues that can impact her ability to be safe in any environment:
Nearly 50 percent of children with autism have been found to wander away from a safe environment, according to AWAARE, a collaborative group that works to keep kids safe. If your child is in the backyard, you need to make sure she stays there.
Heightened senses can make her jump at loud noises and muted senses mean she doesn’t feel the cold. Whether your child is hypersensitive, under-sensitive or some combination of both, she may not be aware of overexposure to the sun, cold, rain, or injuries. Learn more about how poor sensory integration can impact a child on the spectrum at Autism.com.
Poor Awareness of Danger
Children on the spectrum struggle to identify dangers. This complex issue involves a problem with a part of the brain called the amygdala, as well as other functions like prediction, language and more. Snagglebox explains this problem and how to help a child.
Creating A Safe Yard
There are a number of things you must do make sure your yard is safe for your child:
Build A Fence
A fence is a surefire way to protect your child from wandering as long as you build it appropriately to ensure she can’t climb over it or escape under it. If you want to put a door in the fence, use one with a double-sided key lock and make sure your child cannot access or use the key.
Lock Down Your Tools And Chemicals
Gardening tools, like pruning shears, and chemicals such as pesticides can be dangerous so be sure to keep them under lock and key. You might want to avoid using any harsh chemicals on your lawn in case your child is sensitive or allergic to them. Here are some ideas for nontoxic lawn care that are even safe for your pets.
This blog post from Irie Diva recommends you provide all the heat relief your child needs, including making her come indoors from time to time. Some children on the spectrum also struggle to sweat and turn bright red from too much exertion so make sure she stay hydrated as much as possible as well. If your child drinks from the garden hose, check if it is labeled “drink-safe” by the FDA. If not, it might contain lead, according to this article at Best Lawn Sprinkler Co. We recommend keeping a water bottle or cooler with drinks on hands as long as your child is outside to avoid the hose.
Research shows that drowning is a top cause of death for children on the spectrum, according to Science Daily, so unless your child is a strong swimmer, avoid putting any kind of pool in your backyard.
Building Your Yard
There are lots of great ways to keep your child safely entertained when you’re outside. Here are some entertaining activities that you can enjoy together as a family:
- Take her backyard camping. You may not be able to camp in the woods but you can pitch a tent and put the sleeping bags in the yard. Fire up the grill to toast marshmallows.
- Build a birdhouse together and then teach your child to appreciate nature as you bird watch together.
- Create a garden. Kids love growing flowers or produce. Be sure to buy garden gloves so your child can feel like an official gardener while keeping her hands free from sensory issues.
It doesn’t take much to make the necessary adjustments that ensure your child’s comfort and safety. Creating a safe and accessible backyard for her to play in is worth the effort for your child’s fun and your peace of mind.
About the Author: Ashley Taylor
Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.
Visit Ashley’s website for further information and resources!