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Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:29:00 AM

 

As parents we worry about our children’s safety.  As Autism parents our fears sometimes seem endless.  It’s easy to give way to your fears and tumble into a world where everything seems overwhelming…instead why not focus on what you can do to keep your child as safe as possible.  Of course, there are endless things we can do to teach our children safety, but here are 3 essential elements to keeping our kids safe.

 

1. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!!!

We all recognize the benefits of rehearsal.  Can any of us imagine actors doing a play without any rehearsal?  Or a school that doesn’t have fire drills?  Or an Olympic Athlete running a marathon for the first time on race day?  None of these is a scenario for success.  We all benefit from rehearsal and experience tells us that for our children on the spectrum rehearsal is even more important.  When we give them more opportunities to practice and learn our children are more likely to be successful.  So rehearse safety with your kids.  Have fire, earthquake and other disaster drills in your home on a regular basis. Rehearse how to respond to strangers, how to cross the street and how to seek the help of community responders.  Of course you can’t rehearse every situation so….

 

2. Strive for Generalization of Safety Skills

Make sure when you are rehearsing safety skills you change variables each time you rehearse.  Change the location, the people involved and the time of day you practice.  This will help your child to be able to apply what they are learning to a variety of situations.  If you are doing a fire drill you might want to do it once at bedtime and have everyone start in their bedrooms, the next time you might start the drill with everyone in the dining room.  Perhaps you can rehearse it once with your babysitter.  By changing the variables you help your child to be a flexible problem solver, which is key to being safe in all situations.

 

3. Reinforce Desirable Behavior

We know the power of positive reinforcement; it is very effective at getting all of us to engage in certain behaviors over and over.  So, if we want our kids to be safe and stay safe, we need to reinforce them any time they engage in safe behaviors. Reinforcement is a personal thing, what is reinforcing to one child won’t be to another child.  Finding what is actually reinforcing to your child and then making sure to provide that reinforcement on a regular basis for appropriate safe behavior is key to helping your child be safe.

 

In our Ask Dr. Doreen segment, Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh recently answered a question on preparing kids for Stranger Danger and sexual abuse.