5 Ways to Encourage Safe Outdoor Play with Your Autistic Child
by Danny Knight
1. Safety First
The outdoors is a playground of adventure for any child. While you can and should encourage them to explore and have fun, do not leave them unsupervised. It is too easy for a child to get so lost in their play that they wander off and become lost or might not hear a car coming down the street. Create a safe environment by installing a fence or safety barrier. This will not impede their sense of wonder with the outdoors.
Be on the lookout for potential dangers within your own backyard too. Fill in any holes and remove any dangerous plants. If you have a pool, experts recommend surrounding it with a 4 to 5 feet high fence. For extra security, install an alarm on the gate to warn you if anyone enters the pool area without your knowledge. Remember, plastic and inflatable pools can also cause drowning so be sure to empty them of water after use.
2. Create a Soothing Environment
Create an emotionally safe outdoor space for your autistic child by reducing any potential sensory overloads. Unpredictable environments can be intimidating for your child, so keep a few fixed elements, like large furniture or potted plants, in your outdoor space. This will help them feel more comfortable whenever they step outside.
Try and chose a section of your yard where they can retreat to when they are in need of some peace and quiet. Select a shady area away and obstruct the outer area to keep them from getting overwhelmed. Help them get comfortable by providing them with seating and shade.
3. Experiment with Touch
If your child is intimidated by the outside world, you may have to help bridge that gap with them. MomJunction recommends engaging in sensory activities that will both strengthen your bond their social skills. Some great activities include painting with ice where you can let them become immersed in the painting and use it as an opportunity to discuss how it works. Try setting up an obstacle course in your backyard or playing hide and seek. Do not be afraid to let them get wet in the rain either, this can provide a unique and fun experience for them.
4. Get Your Hands Dirty
Gardening in another excellent way to provide your child with a variety of textures for them to explore. This is a natural setting for them to engage in different sights, sounds, textures and colors that can help them overcome any sensory issues they may have. Slowly introduce them to a variety of textures from fertilizer to the veggies you’re growing.
It is also a soothing activity you can do together. Make your child your assistant. Give them their own pair of gardening gloves and guide them through the process. This provides them with an excellent opportunity to learn how to follow directions and observe nature.
5. Playground Etiquette
Going to the playground is an essential part of any childhood experience, but do not be alarmed if your child feels overwhelmed. Ease into the environment and start small like gentle rocking on the swings. Scary Mommy reminds parents not to hover and to only step in when necessary when they are doing something dangerous, hurt, or showing signs of overstimulation.
Let your child explore and experience nature in their own time. If done right, it can bring a lot of joy and relaxation into their lives. Do not hesitate to get in on the fun yourself! It can be a great bonding experience for your family.