Tag Archives: child safety

Safety First: Teaching Safety Skills to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Child holding father's hand
If you have a child with autism, you know that safety skills are a primary concern. Your child can encounter situations every day—like crossing the street—that might pose a risk, or they might engage in dangerous behaviors such as wandering. It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to teaching your children best practices to avoid or how to respond to unsafe situations, but the strategies below can be applied to many common safety concerns that arise. Think about applying these steps to the scenario of your child getting lost in a store.

1. Assess: What is the safety issue? What does your child know about the situation?
Your child tends to wander or get separated when you’re shopping in a large store and you want to create a plan for what to do in that situation. Right now he doesn’t know who to seek help from or what information to give him if he gets separated from you.

2. Plan: Create a strategy for dealing with the safety issue at hand if and when it occurs.
In case of separation, make sure your child knows his full name, parents’ names, home address, and telephone number. If your child has very limited language abilities, he should have an ID card or bracelet with him at all times. If he gets lost in a store, he should go to the person or people you have indicated are safe to go to for help—e.g. police or security.

3. Teach a plan: Talk to your child about how she should behave in the situation.
Speak to your child about what might happen if she gets separated from you at the store. Explain how to respond when people call her name and to listen for an announcement on the loudspeaker. Also make sure she knows who to ask for help and to stay in one place if she can’t find help. Many children with autism respond well to having concrete rules and steps to follow.

4. Model appropriate skills: Demonstrate skills or activities in action using social stories, pictures, videos, and other helpful teaching tools.
Show him pictures online of the types of people he should ask for help (e.g. police, firemen, security). You can demonstrate the steps for him at home: pretend you are a lost child and go through the steps. You can also find videos online that demonstrate what to do when lost in a store.

5. Practice: Practice putting your child in the situation—in a safe, controlled environment—and allow her to practice the new skills in many different natural settings.
When you’re at a store, have your child point out people who could be helpers. Have her repeat what she would say to someone if lost, such as “I can’t find my mom, can you help me?” Then set up a realistic drill. Give the security guard at a store you’re familiar with a heads up that you’ll be practicing. Stay within earshot of your child—but not with her—and have her go through the steps you’ve explained. Generalization doesn’t occur easily, so repeat in a variety of settings with different kinds of helpers to ensure she can demonstrate her skills in unfamiliar situations.

Reward/give feedback: Praise and reward your child when he gets the skill right. You can gradually phase out the reward system as the skill becomes well-learned.
Tell your child how well he followed the steps of your plan, provide additional teaching where necessary, and reward attempts at learning new safety skills.

The most important step is to practice, practice, practice! Not only will it help your child stay safe, but it will help your peace of mind to know he has the skills to manage the situation.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Rebecca Doggett, Ph.D. is a clinical assistant professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Holiday Gift Tips: What You Need to Know About Toy Safety

Kid girl playing toys at home or kindergarten

In my house, holiday time means family, closeness, traditions, good food, and TONS of new toys! While these gifts are fun and exciting for children (and grown-ups!), it’s important to choose toys that are safe and developmentally appropriate. Read on for important tips for choosing the best—and safest—kids’ toys.

Avoid toys with small parts. Young children explore the world through their mouths—you’ve probably noticed that your baby almost immediately puts a new object in her mouth. While this is a normal part of child development, it’s important to ensure that any toys you bring into your home do not pose choking risks for your children. If you have older children, any of their toys with small parts should be placed in a storage bag and clearly labeled. Only allow your child to play with these toys when your little one isn’t around, and place all contents back in the bag and on a high shelf afterward he or she is done playing.

Avoid toys with long strings or cords. Children can accidentally wrap these around their necks, which can cause strangulation. Keep this in mind with mobiles in your child’s crib. Once your child has started to grab for things it is best to remove the mobile.

Buy toys in the United States. The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors all toys made in the United States and ensures that they follow strict safety guidelines. All toys made in the United States or imported in after 1995 must comply with these standards.

Avoid toys with small magnets. Magnets used in children’s toys can be very powerful and extremely dangerous if swallowed. If two magnets are swallowed it can lead to intestinal obstruction, injury, and perforation.

Choose age-appropriate toys. Most toys will be labeled with the age that the toy is appropriate for. Follow these guidelines and be realistic about your child’s abilities. Ask family members to choose gifts that are within the age guidelines for your child.

Avoid button batteries. Avoid all toys that are controlled by lithium button battery devices. Ingestion of these batteries is very dangerous, as they can cause severe esophageal burns in as little as two hours. If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery, go to the emergency room immediately.

Don’t forget a helmet for riding toys. Scooters and bicycles can make great holiday presents, but it’s important that your child wears a helmet at ALL times when using them.

Sign up for toy recalls. You can sign up for toy recalls at Safe Kids Worldwide. This way you’ll know if your child’s favorite toy ends up on the recall list.

While toys should be fun, child safety is the number one priority. Play with your child and encourage creativity by using age-appropriate and safe toys. Enjoy this time with your child, and happy holidays!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Deena N. Blanchard, MD, MPH, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center and a partner at Premier Pediatrics.

How to Keep Your Child Safe from Concussion This Winter

The fall and winter months are a fun time for families with young children to get outdoors and enjoy the activities and sports that come with colder temperatures. However, whether it’s pumpkin picking or ice skating, these family outings can turn troublesome if a slip and fall leads to a concussion.

It is essential that parents, guardians and caregivers know the signs of a concussion, and what to do if one is suspected.

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a jolt or blow to the head or body that forces the head to move rapidly back and forth or side to side. This can happen as a result of a fall, car accident, or during physical activity—especially sports and outdoor play.

During the fall and winter months, we tend to see the most concussions in young children caused by bike riding, falls on the playground, hitting heads on objects, slips on the ice, sleigh riding, and ice skating. In older children, we typically see the most concussions in sports such as football, soccer, cheerleading, ice hockey, skiing, and snowboarding. Student athletes and children should understand the importance of reporting a concussion if they think they or a teammate/classmate were concussed.

Younger children, however, may not be able to tell a parent or caregiver they hurt their head. This means parents should look for obvious signs and symptoms of a concussion, which include: fatigue, balance problems, dizziness, headache, difficulty concentrating, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to noise or light, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, and emotional changes.

If your child has experienced a concussion, parents should keep him or her out of activities that could potentially lead to another head injury. A concussion puts children at higher risk for sustaining another concussion, and repeat concussions can prolong recovery time and increase the likelihood of long-term effects.

Parents should also pay attention to these common myths around concussion:

Myth: You only have a concussion if you lose consciousness
Truth: Only 5 to 10 percent of concussions result in loss of consciousness.

Myth: High-tech helmets can prevent concussions
Truth: Current research has not shown that helmets can prevent concussions. They prevent more serious head injuries such as skull fractures. Of course, wearing a helmet is critical in fall and winter sports such as football, ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding.

Myth: An MRI or CT-scan can diagnose a concussion
Truth: At this time, concussions cannot be detected on imaging such as MRIs and CT scans. The diagnosis of concussion is made through a thorough physical exam by a medical professional experienced in diagnosing and managing concussions.

We all recognize the importance of family outdoor activity and in no way suggest that children should not engage in them during fall and winter months. On the contrary, it’s critical that our youth remain active. What we want to stress is that children should play safely and that kids, parents, guardians, and caregivers are educated to spot the signs and symptoms of concussion, so if one is suspected, they know what to do.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Dina Pagnotta PT, MPH, is the Administrator for the NYU Langone Concussion Center and director of the Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Network at NYU Langone. She is a physical therapist with over 17 years of experience in rehabilitation. She has played an integral role in the creative development and implementation of the NYU Langone Concussion Center and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Network. 

Mara Sproul RN, MPA, CRRN, RN-BC is the program manager for the NYU Langone Concussion Center. She is a is a registered nurse with over 18 years of experience in rehabilitation, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiology, and nursing administration. As program manager, she facilitates seamless, efficient, and patient-focused delivery of care for everyone who enters the Concussion Center for treatment. She is also actively involved in community health initiatives.