Feeling like a part of the community can be especially important for the livelihood and independence of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 5,437,988 (2.21%) adults in the United States have ASD. As these adults age, factors associated with growing older and remaining active in the community may become increasingly challenging.
This is why the organization Autism Speaks has compiled a list of resources to help those diagnosed and their families to better ensure their safety in the community. The organization shares simple experiences and activities that take place in the community. The activities are grouped into separate sections in order to focus specifically on safety in each of these components of our daily lives.
Creating Safety Plans for Individuals with Autism: When it comes to identifying safety risks and preventing emergencies for an individual with autism, loved ones and families are the best advocates, and the people most likely responsible for taking the necessary steps to develop a safety plan. It is critical to take the time to evaluate what a family member needs to be safe and protected at home, at school and in his or her community. Top safety risks for adults with autism include:
- Wandering from or leaving safe spaces
- Household toxins
- Misunderstanding related to communication difficulty
Asking for Help: When adults with autism are out in the community, it is critical that they know what to do in certain situations that may arise. This may often require asking for help. Knowing how to ask for help safely and in a timely manner will help ensure the safety of your loved one. It is beneficial to teach those with ASD these steps on what to do if they get lost:
- Here are the big three: STAY CALM, STAY PUT, MAKE NOISE.
- Do not panic.
- Stop where you are and try to remember your route.
- Rethink your steps.
- Do you remember any of the buildings, signs, houses?
- If available, use your cellphone to call 911 or home.
- Have identification available.
- Consider an Introduction Card (e.g., My name is David and I have autism).
- Look for a police car or a law enforcement officer.
- Ensure the cellphone has the GPS mechanism activated.
- If you are lost in a mall or shopping center, look for security or ask a clerk for help.
- Ensure you have a small LED flashlight available at all times while traveling/walking.
- Learn the positioning of the sun to determine approximate time/direction.
Using Public Restrooms: As using a public restroom is a different experience than using the bathroom at home, teaching adults with ASD the proper skills and etiquette is imperative. Autism Speaks shares that the social rules in public men’s restrooms include avoiding eye contact, choosing a urinal or stall as far away from the other person as possible, and looking straight ahead or up and down when using a urinal or stall. Typically, men are also expected to wash up and walk out of the restroom without engaging in conversations. Alternatively, in a women’s public restroom, conversation is normal and eye contact is typically acceptable.
Using cellphones: People with autism can use cellphones as a way to communicate and help keep themselves safe while out in the community. Certain tips can help teach people with ASD to use a cellphone safely. For example, tips include being as discreet as possible when using your cellphone in public, and not using a Bluetooth device or auxiliary speaker system if possible. They should also be taught not to give out personal information over the phone and if they do not recognize the caller, to hang up.
More About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions across the spectrum and throughout the life span for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.