At the height of the COVID pandemic, when everyone was required to stand six feet apart, wash their hands frequently, and wear face masks, my son took to these requirements like a dream. He followed the markings on the floors of stores and wore his mask. He already washed his hands a lot, so no problem there.
COVID restrictions have eased and my son, blessed with autism, still follows the restrictions. He reminds me to put on my mask before we leave the car. This is fine and well for me, but he has no qualms about telling anyone he meets they should wear a mask as well. This has led to some raised eyebrows as I try to explain to him people no longer have to wear a face mask or stand six feet apart.
We continue to follow these guidelines because, although we have received all our vaccines vaccinated, the vaccines are new, and because we live in a household with his 80+-year-old grandparents, one of who refuses to take the “shot.”
Safety is important from the standpoint of any parent. It is especially important for parents of children with special needs to have conversations about safety with their children. More than once. The same as you’d do with neurotypical children. It is imperative that our children understand there are people in this world who do not have their best interests in mind, whether it be their physical safety or their mental safety or their financial safety.
One of the most difficult things I have to explain to my son is if he hands the cashier or clerk in a store all of his money to pay for a purchase, all of them may not be nice and return the extra money he’s given them.
The challenge with having a child with autism is that they seem not to pay attention to the world that surrounds them. This means they don’t understand the dangers that could lurk around them every day.
This was my son. He never reacted when the doorbell or the phone rang. Most kids run to answer the door ahead of their parents. Not T.J. it lulled me into a sense of complacency.
I woke up one morning to find my cousin standing over me. “How did you get in here?” I asked.
“T.J. let me in.”
Once my hands stopped shaking and my heart returned to my chest after spending several long moments in my feet, I knew I needed to have a conversation with T.J. about coming to get me if I don’t respond to the doorbell.
Thank God it was only my cousin.
As a parent of a special needs person, all I want to do is keep my son safe. Even now that he is an adult. Here are a few tips/reminders to help you talk with your special needs child about safety:
· You know your child. You know what they can and can’t handle.
· Don’t be afraid to talk with them about things happening in the news.
· Use language your child will understand.
I had safety conversations with T.J. so much that he reminds me about being safe. In his own way. If I’m walking into a store without a mask, he will say, “Mom, you forgot your mask. You don’t want to give yourself COVID.”
All children can learn, no matter their different-ability. Teach them about being safe in their environment, whether they are inside and outside of the home, or when they are with you or some other adult.
At the end of the day, “safety and security” are what matters most.
Need more self-care tips including info on incorporating more laughter into your day, head on over to A Cup of Positivity on Facebook join the discussion.