Getting around

As children with autism become more independent, it is important to teach them the proper skills necessary to keep themselves safe in the community. Before venturing out alone or with friends, it is critical that these individuals understand how to find their way around and how to reach their destinations safely.

The skills and tips below will help keep your loved one safe and allow him or her to have positive and enjoyable experiences while in the community

Whether walking to a friend’s house, to school or around town, children need to know how to navigate streets safely. Because a child’s size and cognitive ability are constantly developing, in addition to environmental risks like speeding motorists, there are many hazards that can cause accidents and injuries. Help reduce your children’s risk of harm by modeling and teaching safe pedestrian behavior.

Crossing the street

  • Become familiar with the intersection if it is within a daily or routine commute.
  • Only cross at designated areas.
  • Obey electronic visual walk/do not walk signs.
  • Watch for turning traffic while in the crosswalk.
  • Be mindful of drivers who may be looking in the opposite direction, e.g., making a right turn on red.
  • Do not wear headphones or headsets while crossing the street.
  • Look both ways twice before entering the intersection.
  • Listen for any loud noises such as a vehicle accelerating to beat a yellow light.
  • If the sun is bright, shade your eyes with your hand so your vision is not affected.
  • Do not follow other jay-walkers into controlled intersections.
  • Refrain from any conversation while crossing the street.
  • Concentrate on whether or not it is safe to cross.
  • Learn the colors of the traffic signals (Red-Yellow-Green).
  • Look. Listen. Think. Cross.

David Munday – Law Enforcement Consultant/BlueLine Advantage, LLC

Learning landmarks and directions

  • Learn North/South/East/West.
  • Be sure to have a basic understanding of the sun's position in relation to time, i.e. straight up = noon, east = AM, west = PM.
  • Relate road names to relatives or friends, e.g. Pearl Street = Aunt Pearl, Main Street = My Main Man Mike.
  • Learn the grid of the city, i.e. NW, SW, NE, SE, and divide the grids into known objects: toys, names, numbers, etc.
  • Learn what areas in the community are “unfriendly”.
  • When traveling in the car, point out specific landmarks every time you pass for a period of time (i.e., there is the fire department, there is the grocery store where Mr. Johnson works).
  • Demonstrate to the individual with autism the process to determine how much daylight remains in the day. Hold up your right hand with your index finger against the horizon and your little finger towards the sun. Each finger represents approximately 15 minutes of daylight remaining, i.e. four fingers between the sun and the horizon equals one hour of sunlight remaining, three fingers equal 45 minutes of sunlight, etc.

David Munday – Law Enforcement Consultant/BlueLine Advantage, LLC

Riding the bus and taking public transportation

  • Review a map of the bus routes and learn the stops assigned to each bus.
  • Meet with the bus driver(s) and provide basic awareness tips.
  • Be aware of the safe and proper payment methods.
  • Purchase a monthly/annual bus pass.
  • Upon entering the bus/train, take the first seat available on the aisle.
  • If another passenger needs a seat, stand and let them take the window seat.
  • Pay close attention to the assigned stops on the route.
  • Know the stop prior to your final destination to remind you the next stop is yours.
  • Point out the emergency exits on the bus/train.
  • Explain why seatbelts are not required on a bus/train.
  • Demonstrate why placing their feet on the seat in front of them is not appropriate.
  • Insist on a bathroom break just before the bus/train ride.
  • Have headsets or earphones available for MP3 players or iPods for a calming effect.
  • During the ride, point out specific landmarks and important locations on the route.

David Munday – Law Enforcement Consultant/BlueLine Advantage, LLC