Declutter and plan ahead – for sanity and safety in the autism household

Whilst many of the tips we are giving here are pretty “normal” in any toddler household you as a parent of a special needs child need to know that most young children with autism spectrum disorder have spatial geometry problems,  they can’t necessarily judge distance, size or height so falling over and bumping into things are part and parcel of everyday life in the autism household.  

Add to this the fact that autistic children do not see danger the way we do.  They will taste, climb and explore anything and everything they can get their hands on.  Eloping (or running for no apparent reason and with no real purpose other than to run) is also a common problem in the autism community so for sanity sake (and for the safety of your child) here is a list of things to think about when you first get the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.  

  1. pack away those items dearest to you or move them to a shelf your child can not reach (or climb to reach) because chances are they will not last long and I promise you there will come a time in your life where you can pack them out again!
  2. bolt your televisions to the wall and make sure the bracket that you use is strong and sturdy.  It is also wise to put the television a little higher in the early years;
  3. avoid putting anything under the television that your child can climb to reach the television because they will climb up it and chances are on the way down they will fall off it
  4. no glass coffee tables anywhere near a toddler with autism spectrum disorder.  It is just outright an accident waiting to happen;
  5. lock doors in kitchens and bathrooms where many dangers lurk.  This applies to cleaning detergents, shampoo and even moisturizer.  A hyposensitive child is very likely to ingest anything they can get their hands on;
  6. swimming pool safety is one of the biggest and first steps.  Get an SABS approved pool net and pool fence installed if you have a pool.  The same applies to fish ponds.  Autistic children are drawn to water and drowning is the highest recorded reason for death in autism;
  7. lock drawers and make sure sharp objects are left well outside of the reach of your child;
  8. if you have windows then make sure they have safety or burglar bars on them and if you child loves climbing make sure those windows are always closed and that the child cannot climb out the window;
  9. do not have beds next to windows – particularly if your child loves jumping;
  10. avoid electrical cords being exposed in bedrooms as many autistic children love wrapping “string” wire or anything they can find around themselves and/or their toys;
  11. make sure all your television cords are out of reach of the child;  I would recommend having them inside conducted;
  12. put plug covers on all your electrical sockets throughout the entire house;
  13. remove class vases, ornaments and picture frames from low lying counters;
  14. check your garden for poisonous plants and berries.  I will even go as far as saying remove all plants that have small pips, berries or seeds because chances are they will be the reason for a trip to the ER;
  15. baby-proof your house, in Johannesburg I have found that Dischem and Baby Company have about the best range of inexpensive gadgets that you can install – DIY style;
  16. don’t mop floors when your autistic toddler or even the autistic teen is around because they will most likely slip and hurt themselves …

As I said at the offset of this article – pretty basic stuff!  But the truth is it is stuff many parents don’t think about before an accident happens.

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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.