Safety in the Community

As travel restrictions lift post lockdown and children are allowed to be out in public, it is crucial for us to ensure their overall safety in the community. 

 

Some safety concerns for children when they are out in the community include: 

  • road safety: knowing when to cross the road, where to cross, etc.
  • car parks: being vigilant and look out of cars 

 

Some children on the spectrum have the tendency to wander off or dash off and bolt, and it could be very dangerous. 

Preventative and Teaching Strategies

1. Communicate expectations from the start 

  • including: where you’re going, what you’re about to do, etc.
  • use Social Story or Visual Schedule (this may prevent meltdowns while assuring your child of the plan, particularly if there is a certain place or activity they look forward to)

 

2. Reinforcement 

  • natural reinforcement: arranging an activity they enjoy at the end (e.g. having an ice cream after grocery shopping and lunch)
  • give your child special rewards when they follow the rules
  • e.g. praises, stickers, or anything they might enjoy

 

3. Game plan 

  • check out the adult-child ratio, location of the information desk and security 

 

4. Adult supervision 

  • have a designated adult to supervise the child (family members can take turns)
  • let your child wear a GPS tracker/ID bracelet in case your child is separated from you

 

5. Practice learned safety skills 

  • practice safety skills learnt at home outside, starting with non-peak hours, then gradually build up to peak hours 

Key Teaching Strategy: Stay With Me Programme

Objective: to prevent our children from bolting or dashing off from us 

 

Prerequisites skills:

  • Basic cooperation
  • Ability to follow First-Then concept
  • Ability to follow some simple instructions 

 

Materials:

 

Steps:

  1. First, read the Social Story with your child.
  2. Show the video model and emphasise on the targeted skill observed in the video.
  3. Use a the First Then chart to communicate expectations
  4. Say the instruction, “Stay with me” and begin practice
  5. Give tokens/immediate reward for every successful attempt
  6. Reward your child once all trials have been completed 

 

* It is recommended to start this programme in one neutral room, before gradually generalising this skill to other rooms and places, using the same skill breakdown.

Stage 1: Introduction

To keep your child successful with a small achievable goal, begin with having your child walk for just 5 steps first in one room. In a room with only 5 steps to accomplish, begin by holding your child’s hand. You can then fade back your prompt by holding your child’s elbow/wrist before gradually moving on to holding your child’s shoulder and finally letting your child walk on his/her own. 

 

Stage 2

Child is expected to walk more steps and to do so more independently. You can follow the similar breakdown to gradually fade off your physical prompt (placement of your hand). 

 

Stage 3: Generalisation

Child is expected to practise the same skill in different rooms or areas of the house, before moving this practice outside the home.

 

It is recommended for adults to wait gradually longer durations before giving the reward when the child successfully follows and does what is expected. This is to teach the child to tolerate waiting for the adult to come to them before they can continue walking (Kay, 2020).

Your Turn

Download our Safety in the Community checklist from our website and assess your child’s safety skills in community settings.

 

You may also add on any concerns you have observed that may not be on the list.

Identify the key skill you would like your child to learn, and begin teaching immediately! 

References

1. Kay, S. (2020). Teaching children with autism about safety. Expert Columns: Teaching Children with Autism About Safety. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.mayinstitute.org/news/acl/asd-and-dd-child-focused/teaching-children-with-autism-about-safety/