On any day trip, there is always the possibility of a child wandering off or becoming lost. When you have autistic children they may not be able to communicate with strangers that they are lost. They may not be able to learn how to find a safe person. They may be prone to running if they are upset or scared. All of these things can be concerning to parents when taking their child out for the day. Here are our ten top tips for safeguarding autistic children on days out.
1. Label your child!
Will your child wear a wristband or bracelet? If not will they wear a specially printed T-shirt or in the very least a sticker? Whatever you feel your child will wear, label it simply with your phone number and any additional information you feel needs to be included for your child. Remember not to put your child’s name or personal details for safeguarding purposes.
2. Watch the exits
If you are somewhere like a soft play center or park, where your child is able to safely play by themselves and you may not be able to see them at all times then position yourself near the exit. This way you can be sure your child is within the area they should be and you can see the way out incase they decide to try and leave or get upset and run.
3. Role play getting lost and what to do
Use social stories and role play to help your child to learn what to do in the event they become separated from you. If they are able to remember numbers, teach them your mobile phone number. At the very least your aim is to get your child to find a safe person and show them their wristband.
4. Getting there
If you are using public transport or going near busy roads, depending on the age of your child it may be an idea to use a pushchair to get to your destination safely. There are also different types of reigns that might help, from traditional ones and ones with attached back packs to wrist straps that you can attach to yours and your child’s wrist.
5. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for who
It sounds silly but it is too easy to assume the other adult is watching the children and this is often a reason for a child becoming separated from their carers. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for watching each child. If you transfer this responsibility to someone else eg “go to daddy”, then make sure the other person is also aware this is happening. If you have more than one child and more than one adult then consider assigning one child to each adult to keep an eye on.
6. Charge your phone.
Always make sure you take a mobile phone with you which is fully charged. If you are going out for a while and know your phone is likely to run out of battery then consider taking a portable charger with you. This way you are always contactable in case of emergency.
7. Find a safe meeting place
If your child is able to understand the concept, when arriving anywhere find a safe place to go in case someone gets lost. Many theme parks have lost child locations already, point these out to your child. If you are in a park choose a bench or tree. Wherever you are going decide on the safest and easiest place to meet incase someone gets lost. Obviously this is if a child is capable of understanding this concept, they might not be able to.
8. Track your child
If your child has a mobile phone then allow them to have it with them and make sure location services is switched on. If your child does not have a phone then consider using a wearable GPS tracking device such as a watch. These can be expensive but will enable you to locate your child easily if they become separated from you.
9. Dress your child in bright colours.
If you look into a crowd of children then the likelihood is your child will blend in. Consider dressing them in a brightly coloured T-Shirt, coat or hat so they literally stand out from the crowd and it will make it easier for you to spot them.
Consider dressing your children or whole family in matching T-Shirts. This makes it easy to spot everyone. It also helps if a child gets lost as other people will be able to tell they are with you.
10. Take a picture on your phone at the beginning of the day.
When you are ready to go out, take a picture of your child with your smartphone. This way you will have a picture of exactly what they look like that day incase you need to show anyone.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to follow my blog or like myFacebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. I also have a closed Facebook group for sharing days out and holiday ideas and tips. You can find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour.