Safety Skills — repeat repeat repeat

Filed Under (Safety) by Estee on 06-09-2010

Safety is a big concern for many autistic people. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to walk across the street by oneself, even though one might be extremely intelligent and capable in other areas. I think of this often so as not to be disappointed if Adam will need assistance in the future. As a parent, I consider it one of my obligations to Adam to ensure his safety. I therefore do everything I can, with the help of others too, to teach Adam safety skills. In the event I cannot, I try to ensure his safety in other ways.

One thing Adam loves to do is go for long walks. On the verge of beginning a new school tomorrow that will teach him safety, social and other life skills in addition to academics, Adam and I took a walk after dinner to his favorite icecream joint. Adam does not run off into the street, so lately I’ve made sure that he walks alongside me without holding my hand. This way I can see how he can walk pretty much on his own. It would be his tendency to flap his hands and look to the ground, and I have no issues with hand-flapping except when he is in an area where he really needs to be paying attention to his surroundings.

“Walk safely,” I repeat. I have chosen this instead of “nicely.” This is not about looking appropriate or “nice.” This is truly about keeping one’s eye on the cars and other hazards. Adam listens. He knows what this means now and he is walking and looking around him.

“What’s coming up?” I ask Adam approaching an intersection and prompt him with “in.” “What do you have to do here?”

“Stop,” he says abruptly.

“Stop and?”

“Look bot ways,” he says, his words staccato, unfinished, and somewhat robotic-sounding.

“Right. And what are you looking for?”

“Cars,” he says loudly.

“Is there a car coming?” I crouch down to his level pointing around us. Adam looks and answers a yes or a no, depending on whether or not there is one.

I am rather pleased this evening. With the constant repetition of this script that I’ve made up after numerous walks up and down the same heavily trafficked streets, I feel that we’ve made some headway.

I’ll be repeating this routine over and over again I am certain, even if I’m not certain if Adam will be able to one day walk the streets of Toronto safely on his own. It’s worth trying. Worth repeating.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.