Teaching road safety to my son with autism : What I would do differently now
Written on 18th Apr 2016 by Sylvia Lowery
I have been reading team meeting notes from Alex home based programme. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the problems that arose and how they were dealt with. This week I am going to talk about road safety. Road safety was an issue for a number of years and it cause a fair amount of stress for everyone involved.
Here is what was written on the 6.06.01
‘The focus of this session as on prompting levels. it seems that Alex requires heavy prompting to stop at the side of the road and look for traffic. Also, there are concerns that when Alex is told to look for traffic, he simply moves his head in the appropriate direction and does not actually pay attention to the road. It is really important that you start to fade your prompts for this, our goal is independence.’
When you are approaching a crossing point, don’t say anything to him, make sure that you are right by him so that you can make sure that he stops. If he doesn’t slow down as he approaches the kerb ask him ” what do you need to do now?”prompt the correct answer if necessary. Once he looks for traffic ask him, “what are you looking for?”, we need to make sure that Alex knows what he is doing at these times. Also, ask him what else he needs to do, he should listen. Then cross, making sure that he continues to look for traffic as he crosses the road. Prompt this by asking him what he should be doing as he crosses the road.
Remember if you have to use prompts, you should give him feedback after crossing the road, e.g. “that was good, but there’s another road crossing coming up, what will we need to do?” Also, as you are walking with him, ask road safety questions such as “how do we know if there is a car coming?’
Here is what was written about Alex on the 19.06/01.
‘Alex does not seem to be aware of road junctions, and unless prompted, he would be likely to walk straight across the road. It is vital that Alex learns to stop independently – this will be our goal for the next few weeks.’
Try priming him before you reach the road crossing (i.e., what’s coming up, what do we need to do etc) as you walk towards the crossing, keep asking him what you have just said.
What memories does Alex have of learning road safety?
Alex said, ” I remember learning road safety, I just found it annoying. I hated having to touch anyones hands it was horrible. I thought the cars were just cars and they couldn’t hurt me. I wasn’t thinking about the cars. I remember looking for a literal green man when people would ask me to look for it but the green man was never around.”
My thoughts now
As I read over the notes. I see it all very differently. At the time we didn’t have an insight into Alex’s inner thoughts as we do now. I look at what we did and I can see so many things that may have been making it worse. Most of my knowledge of autism has come from listening to Alex. One of the things that struck me was the way that the therapist were told to keep asking and prompting Alex, to talk about it afterwards if they had prompted Alex. I now think about the way Alex describes his need for time to process information and to not keep on asking another question. it is very likely that Alex just switched off during road safety because there was just too much talking.
I also realise that Alex even now only learns something if he feels that it is important. I would have spent more time thinking of ways to engage Alex. i would have maybe looked at clips form films and looked at what can happen if you are hit by a car. Maybe use a special interest character to do this.
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