Have you seen the viral photo of police officer Tim Purdy helping a young adult with autism who had wandered away from school? The simple shot is worth a thousand words, as Officer Purdy sits down in a parking lot next to the young man. His posture bespeaks kindness, and his patience helped to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation. Lindsay Naeder, the autism response team director at Autism Speaks, spoke about the incident, saying, “There was a lot of empathy and trying to meet [the young man with autism] where he was at …. A challenge for our community can be communicating and dealing with social interactions.”
This recent story illustrates the important connection between social communication and safety. Since individuals with autism often struggle to make their feelings and needs known, emergency situations can prove particularly fraught. Through social stories, you can help prevent wandering and emergency situations while preparing yourself and your community for any potential conflict and confusion.
Why are social stories useful tools to help illustrate safety? The use of pictures with explanatory text has been found to be useful when explaining common social situations to children with autism. We discuss them in our post Printable social stories and visual schedules for students with autism.
Summer Activities and Outdoor Safety
Are you feeling nervous or stressed out about the summer ahead? Never fear–we’ve compiled a list of free downloadable social stories to help you and your family navigate the next few months. With these materials in hand, you can stress less and enjoy the season:
The Kansas Technical Assistance Network (TASN)’s Autism and Tertiary Behavior Supports Resource Center is a treasure trove of free social stories for summer activities such as bike safety and miniature golf. On the safety side, explore the stay with your family and If-Then safety social stories.
Positively Autism is a great place to find free social stories. This summer, you won’t want to miss the Swimming Pool Safety and Fourth of July social stories. The Ouch Cards can also help your child to communicate the location of an injury or insect bite. Finally, the Waiting While Riding in the Car and Share the Road and Shoe Box Games kits will help make road trips more fun.
Social stories include instruction on summer-fun safety tasks such as putting on sunscreen, drinking water, and wearing a bike helmet. Finally, there’s also a detailed visual schedule and checklist for attending a sports game.
Autism Speaks offers a free customizable social story to prevent wandering, a comprehensive wandering prevention resource guide, and a resource library of Visual Tools with links to recommended online social story creators.
The National Autism Association’s AWAARE Collaboration site contains a wealth of safety materials designed to prevent wandering-related incidents.
Looking for social stories for different scenarios? FirstPath Autismalso offers free compilations of printable social stories for birthday parties, emergency situations, and visiting family during the holidays.
Assistive Communication Tools Promote Independence
The social stories linked above can help you and your family to have a safe, fun, and memorable summer. At the same time, they can empower your child with autism to communicate effectively and develop a greater sense of personal independence.
Too often, people assume that an inability to communicate verbally indicates a lack of intelligence. But that’s simply not true. When individuals with autism have the tools and supports they need to make their voices heard, what they have to say is astonishing.
Gordy Baylinson, a nonspeaking teenager on the autism spectrum, recently composed an insightful letter to a police officer about how to treat individuals with autism. Using his assistive communication device, Baylinson wrote,
“My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear. My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six foot toddler, resists.”
Baylinson’s communication device helps him begin to bridge the gap between his mind and body, and this summer, social stories could help your child to do the same.
Did you find this post helpful? If so, please share it with your network and help others be prepared for a safe and fun summer!