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Safety skills to help keep your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder safe this summer

Summer is here! As the summer brings warm weather, it is the perfect time to get outside as a family and enjoy outdoor activities. While having fun in the sun, there are important safety tips to practice with your child so they can enjoy the warm weather safely.  

Essential safety skills are important in all aspects of daily life. These include teaching your child to respond to their name, understanding and responding to simple instructions, such as “stop,” “wait” and “come here,” and practicing walking with you and holding hands frequently.  

There are also safety skills that you can teach your child when enjoying certain activities, such as going on walks and playing in the water. Continue reading for important safety tips to consider when enjoying outdoor activities this summer, including road and water safety. 

Road safety 

Road safety is an important life skill that everyone should learn. However, it can be challenging for some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to learn these skills, as they may lack awareness of potential dangers and be easily distracted. 

Here are four important tips that our team suggests considering when teaching your child with ASD about road safety: 

  1. Model safe pedestrian behaviour, such as walking on sidewalks, only crossing at crosswalks, and looking in all directions before crossing. Your child learns by watching you. 
  2. Incorporate the use of visual aids, such as a checklist with the steps to crossing the street or rules for walking down the sidewalk, to increase understanding. 
  3. Use social stories as they provide information about the skill being taught. Pair the story with practice and role play and review the story before going out for a walk. 
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Review videos, read stories, play games (e.g., using toy cars and a car mat, safety sign match or online games) and role play in the safety of your own home, then go outside with your visual checklist and practice. 

For helpful information on how to create different visual supports for your child, check out the Parent Resources section of our Kinark Kreates videos. 

If you’re looking for support for your family in parking lots, you can apply for an accessible parking permit by visiting any Service Ontario Centre or online here. 

Water safety 

With the warm summer weather here, water activities may provide a great opportunity for your family to cool off and have fun in the sun. Teaching your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) about water safety can help you feel more prepared when spending time around water.  

Here are five tips from our team that may help support you when keeping your child with ASD safe around water this summer: 

  1. Teach your child to ask for permission to enter/access water. This could include asking if they can get in the pool, play at a water table, or kick their feet in the lake. 
  2. Incorporate the use of visuals such as a timer to countdown entering the water, a visual schedule that shows when you will be swimming, or a stop sign on the pool gate. 
  3. If your child is drawn to water, provide supervised opportunities throughout the day for them to play in water. Include water play in your daily schedule to let them know when they will have access. 
  4. Teach your child to tolerate wearing a puddle jumper or lifejacket. Incorporate the use of praise and reward before going to the pool or beach so your child can practice and is comfortable wearing a swimming aid device. 
  5. Always supervise your child when they are in or near the water. 

While setting boundaries and rules with your child, it’s important to break complicated skills down into smaller steps and teach them one step at a time. Always demonstrate and model safe behaviours for your child because your child will learn about safety skills by watching you. 

If you are looking for additional information about important safety skills for your child, you can register for an upcoming parent education workshop through our website here. 

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