Guest post by By Jackie Nunes, Wondermoms.org
Safety is a paramount concern for parents, particularly during their kids’ early years. Toddlers have a propensity for exploring, touching, tasting, and experimenting with everything – even if they shouldn’t. From eating sand to poking at electrical outlets, there are plenty of hair-raising moments for parents and caregivers.
For most families, the need for hypervigilance and childproofing comes to a close as children reach school age and learn more about the ins and outs of personal safety. For others, however, it feels like these times will last forever – and for some, the risk and worry truly can be a lifelong reality.
If your child is an adrenaline junkie, is on the autism spectrum, or has other special needs, he may require extra attention much longer than typically developing kids. Children without an awareness of danger are at increased risk for drowning, traffic accidents, wandering off and getting lost, dangerous encounters with strangers, and even falls off playground equipment.
If your child appears to have no concept of danger or seems more prone than others to accidents or injuries, these safety strategies can help you avoid daily disasters.
Evaluate Your Home for Risks
While no home is completely safe, some homes are safer than others. Before letting your little one run wild, it’s important to take into account the general risks in your home, like stairs without railings, doors that open to the outside, porches and decks with short railings and long falls, and windows without locks. In addition, consider the kinds of dangers that appeal directly to your child. If he’s a daredevil with a love of heights, for example, windows on the second floor are likely a concern.
After you determine where the biggest challenges lie, it’s up to you to take precautions. This may mean using outlet covers to protect against tampering, increasing the height or durability of railings, or putting locks on windows. Home modifications can eliminate many perils.
At the end of the day, your child’s safety comes first, so the more steps you can take, the better.
Post Signs and Warnings
Tired of safety warnings? Exhausted with giving the same suggestions over and over and over again?
For children who benefit from reminders, visual cues and checklists can keep tips for proper behavior at the front of their minds while saving you from being a broken record. Things like “no touching” on the stove, “two feet on the floor” near windows, and “do not open” on doors to the outside can help children remember what to do and what not to do when facing the temptation of rule-breaking. Putting pictures and text together can also help develop reading skills. While you’ll still need to be on alert, posted signs can ease a bit of the burden on you and keep children on task, even when you’re not around. To make it more fun, get your craft supplies out and let your child help.
If your child attends school or aftercare programs, consider working with his instructors to post signs there as well, similar to the ones in your home. In addition to providing a benefit for your child, this strategy can help other children who may have dangerous tendencies, as well.
Label All Clothing and Possessions
If your child gets lost, will she know how to contact you? Will she remember where she lives or what your phone number is? Older children can be expected to know who they are or where they come from, but children on the autism spectrum or with special needs might not be able to recall important information about identity or contact details, particularly in a stressful situation.
To mitigate the dangers that come with wandering away, make sure your child’s name, address, and phone number are written in her clothing, shoes, and coats, on her backpack and school supplies, and on any toys she carries regularly. Some parents use ID bracelets and temporary tattoos, particularly when going on vacation.
In March 2018, the U.S. Congress passed Kevin and Avonte’s law, providing funding for GPS tracking devices for children with autism and other conditions that put them at risk of wandering. The bill was prompted by the death of an autistic teenager who walked away from his school in New York City. Police departments nationwide have been making tracking bracelets available to families who qualify. These devices enable you to immediately pinpoint your child’s location at all times.
Learn First Aid
For most parents, knowing how to do things like put a bandage on a cut or recognize signs of illness can be helpful, but first aid skills rarely need to extend beyond this point. For children without an awareness of danger, however, the bare minimum may not be enough.
If your child has trouble controlling urges in dangerous situations or doesn’t understand how to stay safe alone, a little extra education can go a long way. Parents concerned about their child’s well-being should consider enrolling in first aid classes to learn things like rescue breathing, CPR, wound and burn care, poisoning signs and symptoms, and even lifeguard skills to prevent against drowning. In addition, keep your home first aid kit stocked with everything you may need in an emergency situation, like bandages, burn cream, gloves, antiseptic, safety pins, sterile dressings, and gauze.
Practice Water Safety
From the beach to private pools, most children encounter water at least occasionally during childhood, and, unfortunately, the risk of danger can be quite high. Some children are apt to run headlong into a body of water, regardless of whether or not they know how to swim, leading to frightening and potentially fatal circumstances.
For children up to the challenge, swimming lessons are highly recommended. Available at many public and private pools by American Red Cross-certified swim teachers, swimming lessons can help children learn valuable skills like comfort with getting wet and putting their heads underwater, treading water, swimming, diving, and general pool safety. While not infallible – individuals able to swim are still at risk of drowning – swim classes provide much-needed guidance for both you and your child, teaching sound policies that will keep children safe in and around water.
Keeping your child protected is a top priority, but the effort involved can grow significantly for children on the autism spectrum or with special needs. If your child is consistently poised for potential disaster, taking the right precautions, like knowing the risks in your surroundings, hanging signs, taking classes, and labeling possessions, can help him stay safe – and you stay sane.