How to Create a Safe and Functional Backyard for Your Autistic Child
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
We want our homes to be havens for our children. Our yards can be excellent ways to introduce our little ones to nature, but you need to ensure they are safe, accessible environments, especially for an autistic child. Here is some advice to help you make your yard into an autism-friendly space.
Fence Your Yard
Children of all ages and abilities can get lost in their own inner world, and easily wander. One way to make sure that your child can enjoy being outside safely is to install fencing. Not only will this prevent your little one from accidentally leaving the safety of your home, but it may help them to feel comfortable outside. By having some privacy, they may feel more secure about exploring and playing. A fence with a gate that locks is especially important if you have a fountain or a pool. Children can drown in surprisingly small amounts of water, so make sure they only have access to water features under supervision. If you have a fence already, make regular inspections to ensure there are no gaps your child might slip through, and that there are no unattended objects near it your child might use to climb the fence.
It can be easy to overlook yard maintenance, especially during the cooler months. However, you want to make certain that the plants you have and any pesticides you use are 100 percent safe for your child. Every year, children are poisoned by toxic plants, so be absolutely sure your garden is free of poisonous plants before allowing your child access. There are many varying kinds of plants that may pose a risk, so be aware of what grows in your area and how to identify trouble. If you are unsure how to remove a plant safely, contact a professional. Even with proper gear, there may be the risk of accidental exposure to a toxin, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
One way to help your child begin to feel comfortable exploring the outdoors is doing a few activities together. You could build a play structure for your child, but even activities like birdwatching can be lots of fun when done as a family. If your little one seems willing to experiment with camping but you’re worried about going too far away from home, you could try camping out in the backyard. You’ll have access to your kitchen and restrooms, and be able to retreat inside if your little one misses their bedroom or becomes overwhelmed. There are plenty of toys you can buy that are kid-friendly, but be sure that they are compatible with your child’s specific needs.
Start a Garden
Another great way to help your child feel more confident outdoors is to start a garden with them. Nature can prove relaxing for little ones, especially those on the autism spectrum. One of the best things you can do is to make a sensory garden. Focus on plants and decorations that have different smells, various textures, and bright colors. Make sure all the plants are safe so your child can freely touch and sniff to their heart’s content. Encourage your child to plant the garden with you. Get the right tools, like trowels, gloves, and even a seep hose to make care even easier. By working together, you can show them how plants grow, and even how they can use the results in a recipe.
With a little bit of work, you can ensure that your child can have a safe, relaxing environment to retreat to. Whether you are spending the afternoon gardening together or a weekend evening camping out back, there is much potential for our yards to be sanctuaries. They can be a great way to get your little one experimenting with new sensations and trying new things.
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