Safety suggestions

Whilst all these examples make chilling reading and show exactly what can happen to our children, the following general tips may help all those dealing with a child anywhere on the autistic spectrum and save you a few grey hairs!

• Child proof your house. Don your autism, dyspraxia and AD/HD glasses and take a fresh look around your house.

° Check for any window ledges or balconies that could be beckoning your child and check all windows are safe, preferably double glazed, can only be opened from the top and that the gap is not big enough for a child to get through. For those of you with 'head bangers', ensure there is as little glass as possible around the house.

° Check for lead paint and piping in the house and endeavour to deal with it. High levels of lead are harmful to everyone but doubly so for autistic people.

° Lock away medicines and poisonous substances regardless of the age and ability of your child. The alarm on ours gives me such peace of mind.

° Lock away scissors, razors and sharp knives.

° Install circuit breakers, check all wiring is as safe as possible and the meter cupboard is inaccessible. Luke had a 'thing' about electrics so I have the boys' electrics wired onto a separate circuit so that I could switch it off at night.

° Have double locks on the outside doors, one higher up that the child cannot reach. If the child is bigger or more agile then combination locks can be installed.

° When the child is playing in the garden or in case he or she does 'escape' from the house, make sure that secure locks are on the outside gates.

° Think about installing CCTV in the garden. I can now sit and watch the boys play without having to stand over them every moment. It is far cheaper than I expected.

° Ensure that no harmful plants are in the garden and check out whether the existing plants are harmful if eaten. (I became on first name terms with the poison centre after Ben chomped his way through half the garden!)

• Use pictures throughout the house to reinforce safety issues. I have 'don't touch razors' and other such cards liberally dotted around the house. For some children they may have the opposite effect (Joe being one of them!) but Ben adheres very strictly to rules so on the whole they are a useful safety tool in our house. If, like me you have an ever-escaping child, then try a laminated 'no exit/entry' sign on the doors that can be turned around to show 'go'.

• Follow your instinct. If you feel that the staffing ratio is unsafe at school or on a trip, or you feel your child's safety is being compromised, then don't be intimidated and made to feel that you are merely over-protective. Speak up and stick to your guns.

• Use suitable harnesses. Ben's most astounding skill is his ability to get out of anything! Ensure that car seats and buggies have harnesses designed for Houdinis - in fact ours is called a Houdini harness!

• Use child and window locks in the car and make sure that the children are wearing seat belts at all times. Ensure that car seats, if used, are properly secured. If you have a large family, try to arrange the children's seating so that squabbles and distractions are kept to a minimum. I know that to sit Luke and Joe near each other is an accident waiting to happen!

• Enrol your child in swimming lessons. Regardless of age or ability, most children can learn to swim and many will surprise us with their ability (won't they Ruth?!). Treat this as a safety priority rather than merely a fun activity.

• Teach a secret code. Rather than try (in vain I suspect) to explain about 'strangers' to your child, give a secret code that your child will remember and tell him or her that, regardless of whether the person seems familiar or knows the child's name, to ask for the code.

• Teach internet safety. Try as much as possible to be there when your young child is on the internet and use parental guidance. Tell children not to give out credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers and never arrange to meet anyone, however much they feel like a friend. Explain very clearly that these are the rules and must be followed.

• Run cold water first when running a bath and ensure that once the bath is filled smaller children or less able ones are not left unsupervised. Ensure that all members of the house know these rules.

• Teach road safety through computer games, board games and fun activities. Take the children out and talk about road safety and the dangers but be aware that progress will be slow and presumptions about their abilities can never be made. You know your children best and whether or not they are safe on the road.

Funny Wiring Autism

Funny Wiring Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that manifests itself in early childhood and affects the functioning of the brain, primarily in the areas of social interaction and communication. Children with autism look like other children but do not play or behave like other children. They must struggle daily to cope and connect with the world around them.

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