Creating a Backyard Haven for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Today's post is going to be a little different than the usual, but I love that my blog covers a variety of topics and this one I find very helpful and interesting! This is actually my first "Guest Post" on this space and I'm so thankful to Danny for sharing the information! Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects.

Child safety is a top priority for most parents, but parents of kids on the autism spectrum have various additional issues to consider when ensuring their home is safe. The Autism Society strongly recommends that parents follow their instructions for child-proofing the house. This involves creating a safe backyard space where kids can play and learn. Follow these safety tips so your son or daughter can enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors without risking their wellbeing. 

Make Your Backyard More Accessible

If your kid is in a wheelchair or otherwise movement restricted, it may be necessary to do some construction around your outdoor space. Create wide, level sidewalks throughout your yard and replace stairs with wheelchair ramps. Concrete or anti-slip tiles are the best materials for outdoor surfaces. Avoid wooden platforms or patios since these become slippery when wet! It can also be useful to build handrails along paths or decks for children to hold onto as they walk.

Surround Play Areas with a Fence

Parents may want to build a fence around a play area so that their kid doesn’t wander off into unsafe territory. You can even decorate this fence with painted wooden plaques made by you and your child. Attach items to the fence for your kid to look at and feel. This is especially useful if your kid is blind since items on the fence can act as orientation tools to let them know exactly where they are.

Include a Secluded Safe Space

Overstimulated children need somewhere they can go to find relief when the sights and sounds around them become too overwhelming. An area of sensory deprivation should be calm, quiet, and soothing. To provide a secluded safe space, install something like a large tube or playhouse where your kid can sit in alone. Cocoon swings are great for keeping overstimulated kids feeling calm. Or, a simple picnic blanket on the ground provides your child with a place to relax and stretch out.

Create Sensory Play Areas

Sensory play is very important for kids on the autism spectrum because it stimulates the child’s mind and helps them develop fine motor skills. Kids benefit from a variety of types of activities that lets them explore different senses including tactile, auditory and visual stimulation. For a backyard full of pleasant stimulating sounds, create a bird sanctuary using birdseed, bird baths, and birdhouses. This allows your kid to observe nature and have fun tracking the behavior of the wildlife you attract to your yard. 

A sandbox is a great way to get your kid to use tools and encourage their imagination. You can even garden with your child, allowing them to dig in the dirt and plant seeds with you. Just make sure you have some good gardening gloves to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes.

Practice Pool Safety

According to Parents.com, backyard pools present a special hazard to kids with autism. Autism spectrum kids may not understand the danger of water, so parents need to be extra cautious. Always use proper safety devices like floaties and keep your kid within arm’s reach when your he or she is in or around the pool. Surround your backyard pool with a fence that is at least 4 feet high. Also, make sure the gate to your pool is self-closing with a latch out of reach from your child. You can equip this gate with an alarm for added safety. You can even install a pool alarm, which will go off when someone enters the water. It’s also advisable to remove any toys from the pool area so your child doesn’t chase them into the pool.

Any parent with a son or daughter on the autism spectrum knows that safety is a constant cause of worry. Sometimes it feels like the safest thing to do is just keep your kid inside where they can’t run into danger. However, allowing your child to play outside will improve their development. Create a safe and functional outdoor space where you and your kid can thrive and have fun together!

-Danny Knight