Your autistic child may find it difficult to go out and about. They may have sensory differences and become overwhelmed by noisy traffic, flashing lights, or car fumes. It may also take your child a bit longer to understand things like crossing the street, avoiding traffic, and the general importance of road safety.
Here, we explore practical steps you can take to keep your autistic child safe and to help them develop awareness skills when it comes to road safety.
Why might my autistic child find road safety and going out and about difficult or distressing?
Your child may not always understand why they should or should not do something. This could lead them into dangerous situations, such as running into oncoming traffic.
Your child may also be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to certain sounds, smells, noises and textures. This may affect their ability to process information. For instance, your child might become overwhelmed, distressed, or distracted by an engine revving, a traffic light flashing, or the smell of petrol and car fumes. This could lead to your child becoming distressed or your child ending up in a dangerous situation, for example not looking where they are going because they are so distracted by everything around them.
What can I do to help?
It helps to use clear, simple communication, and to minimise eye contact. Just say: 'No running' and in appropriate, reinforce this with a ‘no running’ or ‘no climbing’ symbol.
When walking along a road with your child, you could try and provide distractions to keep them focused.
point out things in the environment
sing their favourite song
bring something along to distract them (for example, their favourite toy).
Using social stories and games
You may find it useful to write a social story on why we cannot run out on the road. Social stories provide visual information as well as spoken and can be referred to before an event. For example, before you go out for a walk you could read out the story on why we do not run out into the road.
You could role play crossing the road with your child. Many toy shops and online stores sell road safety signs, car mats, toy cars and interactive games. You could play out different scenarios to show your child why it is dangerous to run out into the road.
Supporting your child with sensory differences
If your child has sensory differences, it might help to give them a fidget toy, or putty they squeeze if they feel overstimulated.