CHOOSING AN AUTISM-FRIENDLY PLAYGROUND FOR YOUR CHILD
Parents are always on the watch when it comes to their autistic kids. However, with the increasing number of missing autism children cases across the globe, many parents can’t help but wonder if their focused supervision would be enough to keep their kids from harm at all times. According to the recent autism research funded by Autism Speaks, about half of the population of autism children manage to leave their designated safe zones such as the playground and wander off somewhere. From this number, more than half of these wandering children will be reported missing, and those who are found are often tracked in perilous locations. Autistic children are said to wander off because they are overwhelmed by an existing situation and just want to escape somewhere, or that they have a strong desire to go to a specific spot that holds a special place in their heart. Some parents would eventually find out that their autistic kids just simply want to explore places, and being confined in a specific area such as the playground limits their opportunity to do so. When these autistic children go missing, their families are the most stressed out by their disappearance, which would not only affect the parent’s work situations but their relationship to other people as well. To ensure that your autistic child doesn’t go anywhere else but inside their playground, here are some of the most helpful tips for achieving that.
Choose a completely fenced playground
One of the main factors why autistic children are able to wander off within a matter of seconds or minutes away from their watcher’s supervision is because there is not enough physical safeguard in their playground to keep the child from going outside the safe zone. The next time you plan on bringing your child to a public playground, be sure to choose one that has a fence system which is installed in the entire perimeter. There should only be at least two ways of entry in the playground, and the entrance/exit must be carefully watched over or kept closed when there’s nobody using it as much as possible. There should also be a bench or sitting area near the entrance/exit so that the parents can better know if their child is nearing that area. If you have your own playground inside of your house and you think there’s no need to install a new fence system because you already have one for the whole territory, make sure that your house perimeter is well-fenced as well and your gates are always closed if nobody else is using it.
Know whether the playground has equipment and toys that your child likes to play with
Another mistake that most parents often make when bringing their child to a playground is the thought that their child will always come to like the stuff that they see in there. Not all autistic child is the same, which means that their sensory needs may differ and their preferences to play as well. There are those that might like playing with the big equipment, while others might prefer playing with hand-held toys and tools. You should always consider whether your child finds something interesting in that playground or not because if your child thinks that the whole area is uninteresting, they might find another way to amuse themselves and that includes wandering off to discover other things. Simply ask your child if they have seen something that they want to play with, or if they want to stay in the playground. If the answer to both these questions is “no” or “not sure”, it’s better to find another playground.
Choose a playground that maximizes your vision
A playground with big equipment that can cover up your child’s entire body is a big no-no. As a parent, it is your utmost priority to ensure the safety of your child, and the only means that you can maintain that setup in a playground is through careful observation. As much as possible, choose a playground that maximizes your line of sight on your child, such as those that only install see-through and flat-modelled equipment. Some examples are climbing bars, swing, roundabout, and seesaw that can still give you guaranteed vision on your child while they are playing. One small window of time where the child is out of your sight can spell accident, which you can’t afford risking your child for the sake of enjoyment.
Make sure that the playground has a wide outer area where your child can chill out or rest
There are playgrounds that are too narrow and compact due to area limitations. Knowing that your child is not the only one who’ll play inside a playground, it is easy to imagine them bumping with another child while they go to the playground because of the lack of space to freely move about. To keep your child safe from any injury while inside a playground, choose one that allocates space between equipment and the overall playground area. This will not only give your child the proper location to safely study the whole playground at a distance, it will also give them a good venue to rest while they are far from other children.
Identify the playground that best addresses your child’s several autism features and issues
There are playgrounds that promote interaction between children due to the very design of the equipment and toys. There are also playgrounds that provide sensory tools which are ideal if your child is having sensory issues. Aside from these aspects, your child can sometimes feel the need to play alone and away from other children, which necessitates the feature of a playground that has enough space for a child can play quite privately. If there are many playgrounds to choose from in your locality, choose one that hits the most birds with a single stone.
Playgrounds are a great place for your autistic child to spend their time and energy, but not all playgrounds are safe. It is your duty as a parent to keep your child safe and busy while inside the playground and not wander off someplace else.