Teaching safety to a PDD child can be a challenge to say the least. How do parents teach such a basic essential concept to a child with social and often communicative difficulties? There are a few techniques that will teach these challenged kids the basic safety lessons that could very well save their lives.
The Dangers of Wandering
The first thing that parents need to do when teaching safety to a PDD child is to realize that PDD kids are more prone to certain types of dangers. These mainly include wandering, drowning and exploitive activities. A survey by the National Autism Association determined that 92 percent of parents who participated said that their child was at risk of wandering. One can safely assume that the risk would be similar for those of a PDD child. However, there seems to be no hard and fast rule for teaching children not to wander. Instead, as children learn social skills (admittedly a huge challenge for PDD kids), they learn not to wander.
In the meantime, the best thing that parents can do for a child in danger of wandering is to contact local emergency authorities, get an ID bracelet for the child that they can’t remove, and consider using tracking devices and alarms so that if the child does wander, they can’t get far without someone knowing.
Parents can contact emergency authorities, and have them “red flag" the address as having a PDD child living there. This will provide authorities with information ahead of time in the event that parents need their assistance. It’s also important for parents to remember that any sort of device that they may use to help keep their child safe is only as effective as the parents. If the parent doesn’t use it, it can’t work.
Too often PDD kids are attracted to water, which makes drowning a leading cause of death. The best thing that parents can do to prevent this is to teach the child to swim. This may not always be easy, especially if the child is resistant to the tactile sensation of being in water. But with patience and persistence, parents can teach their child to swim, just as non-PDD kids learn; it will just take longer.
Swimming lessons are available through local community centers and organizations and many of them specialize in teaching special needs kids. Until they do learn, be sure to keep swimming pool gates locked at all times. Children drown silently and quickly.
Teaching safety to a PDD child poses a challenge above and beyond that of teaching safety to normal children. Since PDD kids don’t possess the same social skills as normal children, they aren’t aware of things like personal space, which leaves them vulnerable to being abused and exploited.
But by teaching children about their own personal space and that of others, parents can empower them so that they are less likely to be victimized. One easy way to do this that can be tailored to the individual child is the personal space bull’s eye. It’s simple to create.
Put the child’s name or photograph in the center of a large piece of paper. Explain that that is their body and that only certain people can get close to their space. Draw a larger circle, possibly in a different color, to represent immediate caregivers. You can also add photos of people like mom, dad, and grandparents so that they understand that these are the people that it’s OK to hug and kiss or ask for help for things like bathing.
The next larger circle would represent people like teachers and neighbors. These would be people that it’s OK to talk to and possibly hug them if they want, but nothing else. The next larger circle would represent strangers.
Keep this bull’s eye somewhere that the child can see it and review it often.
Other Safety Resources
Other great resources for teaching safety to a PDD child include the video “Stranger Safety." This video was created by John Wash from America’s Most Wanted and Julie Clark, the founder of Baby Einstein. Another good video is “Kid Escape from Child Abductors." This video teaches children how to escape from an abductor.
It’s important for parents to realize that safety is not an accident and with PDD kids, it’s more important than ever.