Why Health and Safety is a Critical Life Skill for Autism

As parents and caregivers of children with autism, we often overlook one of the most important skills that our children need to succeed in life – health and safety.

As one of the ten life skills areas, health and safety is defined as the skills needed for staying healthy, protecting one’s health, and responding to illness or injury in an appropriate manner.  That includes using medicine, following safety rules, staying out of physical danger, and showing caution.

Health and safety is just as vital as any other that we teach our children, and here’s why.

1). Safety First 

Healthy and safe living is a basic human right. As caregivers, we must ensure that our children with autism have the same level of safety as any other child. Children with autism are generally more vulnerable and have difficulty identifying dangerous situations.

It is important to teach basic safety rules, such as how to cross the road safely, identify who to trust, respond in emergency situations, and in today’s world, staying safe on-line. 

2). Health Care Access

There are many barriers to accessing healthcare for individuals with autism. These include communication challenges, sensory issues, fear of procedures and lack of understanding from healthcare providers.

In order to make sure your child receives quality health care throughout their lives , it’s vital to help your child tolerate visiting the doctor and basic medical procedures like EKGs, shots, blood draws, blood pressure and other basic medical procedures.

3). Supports Communication 

Communicating health care needs is a critical health and safety life skill.

Our children not only need to be able to communicate their needs, but to be able to  differentiate between different levels of medical needs from identifying symptoms and communicating pain in non-verbal children to reading labels and understanding allergies in older children.

4). Impacts on Quality of Life

The goal for our children is to be able to increase their level of independence. While some people with autism live independently as adults, many others have varying levels of support needs throughout their lives.

Regardless of the level of support your child will require, optimizing their health and safety skills will increase their quality of life as being physically and mentally well allows for meaningful and fulfilling life experiences.