Creating a Safe Environment for Autistic Children

Our environment influences us in just about every way. It helps us learn, feel comfortable, and interact with others around us. That’s why creating the proper environment for your autistic child is incredibly important. Children on the autism spectrum have a hard time learning and developing social and sensory skills. Since the environment around us can influence every child’s development we need to create a safe environment for autistic children so that they can learn and develop behaviors and skills so they can become successful in life. It’s important to create an environment that rewards proper behavior and discourages disruptive and destructive behavior.

What Environment Is Most Important?

While most experts agree on home safety issues, Adrienne Warber points out in an article for autism.lovetoknow.com, social and educational environments remain a controversial topic. She points out that in a home setting is important to organize your home in a way that assists your child’s progress. That includes arranging furniture and labeling items that your child uses every day. These will help your child establish a routine and therefore feel more comfortable. The article also states that many autistic children need to have their home childproofed for their entire childhood. This includes safety locks on windows and doors, keeping dangerous appliances out of reach, and possibly putting a wrist alarm or ID bracelet on a child that likes to leave the house frequently. She outlines four components to a safe environment for an autistic child. Below are the four steps that she identifies:

  • Safety: The environment must always be childproof.
  • Structure: Children with autism often prefer strict routines.
  • Peace: A calm environment can soothe anxiety issues.
  • Stimulation: Provide opportunities that stimulate the child's senses within the environment.

These steps can help parents foster a safe secure environment that allows children to develop a routine and promote positive behavior. One possibility for establishing a safe home environment is the Skil-Care Crash Pad. It is sturdy enough to jump on, but yet soft enough for sitting and relaxing. It can be your child’s comfy, safety spot in a pinch!! Somatron manufactures three different rocking/reclining options for the home. They are the Vibroacoustic Soft Vinyl Fitness Rocker and the Recliner Cushion. The other choice is the Vibroacoustic Therapy Lounge Chair. All three are great for therapy, but most importantly they allow for soothing relaxation through the use of music and movement. They utilize the Trendelenburg position and can be attached to any home stereo with 10 to 100 W of power. Another great option it does not require a connection to a home stereo is the Lounger Chair. It is an L-shaped beanbag that is perfect for lounging and has side pockets and an easy carry handle for worry free moving.

Experts in the autism field agree on the parameters of a home environment, but the problem is many disagree on how the educational environment should be structured. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether autistic children do better with special education classes or in mainstream classrooms. The placement of autistic children in mainstream classrooms is called inclusion and is based on the idea that autistic children will learn educational topics as well as social skills from non-autistic students. The experts argue that inclusion helps develop positive behavior and can encourage learning in the autistic student, while others argue that mainstream classes can create a damaging experience for a child. Detractors argue that a child can be teased and teachers cannot provide enough attention that some autistic children require. Another option for parents is homeschooling. The autistic child is already familiar with the home setting therefore should be more comfortable and allows for the proper amount of attention the child may need. A great item for school-age children, made by Fun and Function, is their Spiky Tactile Cushion. It combines balance training with significant tactile input. It can be used in a classroom setting or at home during homework time. Another option for the classroom setting is the Weighted Handwriting Glove. It’s made of soft cotton with a weighted pouch on the back of the hand and is great for fine motor control activities. It’s reversible and can be worn on either hand. The Circle Time Mat is another great choice for the educational environment. It’s great for circle time, nap time, or for any time a little cushioning would be welcome. A Weighted Lap Pad is another way to create a calming experience, whether at home or in the classroom environment. Adrienne Warber points out in her article that it is important to get an IEP (independent education plan) as a home school guide. Public schools are required to provide these even if they are not enrolled in a public school.

Possibly the hardest environment to establish is a social environment. Children on the autism spectrum perform better in a routine and structured environment. Developing this in a social environment can be crucial. By establishing a routine, your child can be encouraged to interact with other children through the use of games and therapy. Since some autistic children have difficulty with social situations, socialization may be difficult to achieve. A great way to achieve this is the Fun and Function Magical Apparel Dressing Outfit. It allows children to practice dressing while engaging in the world of make-believe. With its heavy duty cotton/poly blend, it offers buttons, snaps, and hook and loop closures. There are numerous resources available, but an autism therapist may be the best source of information. Since every child is different, every solution is different also. By paying attention to your child and their reaction to different environmental stimuli you can tailor the environment around your child to best help him/her.

 

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