Children with autism are often unaware of everyday dangers in and around their homes. Further, household items can trigger their sensitivities and prompt meltdowns. That can be stressful for parents.
How Can Technology Help Children with Autism at Home?
Fortunately, there are simple options that you can implement to keep your child with autism out of harm’s way. Smart-home technology offers an array of solutions to put every parent at ease.
Smart-home technology helps you automate processes and create a home optimized to support children with autism. For example, many children on the spectrum are overly sensitive to lights, sounds, and temperatures. Here are some ways that technology can help.
Indoor Sensory Challenges
Lighting and sounds that don’t bother other family members can be stressful or even painful to a child with autism. The latest home technology that addresses these sensory differences includes:
- Smart fixtures and apps that allow you to modulate indoor lighting to be softer on sensitive eyes;
- Whisper-quiet, large-scale appliances (washing machines, dishwashers) to protect sensitive ears;
- Noise-canceling headphones that provide your child with a quiet space, no matter the noise;
- White noise machines to help your child experience better rest;
- Audio systems programmed with gentle music and sound that your child enjoys will improve their atmosphere.
Music is beneficial for learning, brain development, and even speech improvement. Experiment with different levels of lighting and music to see how your child responds and adjust accordingly. Many smart-tech solutions allow you to set timers for lighting and audio depending on your findings and the time of day.
Children on the spectrum are not always able to regulate their body temperature easily. For example, they tend to refuse heavy coats in the winter and shiver in the slightest bit of air conditioning in the summer. Autism often comes with hypersensitivity to heat and cold — as well as the physical sensations that result from these temperature fluctuations. Sweating, itchy clothes, and heavy jackets may feel unbearable.
Other children on the spectrum may not register extreme temperatures. They may not know to put on the heat when they are too cold or the air conditioning when they are too warm. This, at least, makes them uncomfortable and, at worst, puts them at risk of conditions like heat exhaustion.
You can solve this issue by using a smart thermostat to control your home’s temperature. In combination with remote apps, they can notify you of emergencies like a broken air conditioner, loss of heat, and other issues that put your child at risk and help keep them safe even if they cannot alert you of the problem.
Safety at Home
Many children on the spectrum are at risk when left alone at home because they trust everyone. There are several tech options that can protect your child from stranger danger. You can set up a door sensor system and program it to notify you when anyone comes to your door. You can also control locking and unlocking the door remotely and connect it with a security service to keep your whole family safe.
If your child is prone to wandering, install alarm sensors on doors and windows to alert you when your child opens one. Program them to tell you the location and action. For example, some smart sensors can give you a voice or text alert like, “the front door is open.” These solutions can all be put together in one security system.
Relocating Your Home
Relocating can be very stressful for children with autism. Once the move is complete, they may even be at risk of walking out the front door to try and find their former home. When moving with infants, toddlers, or any child on the spectrum, you’ll need to ensure their safety while they grow and/or adjust to a new area.
Set up your autistic child’s room first, so they can get comfortable with the new space. Use the tips above to create an ambient atmosphere in advance if you can. Alarm and door sensors are also a must. Set them up as early as possible.
Another technology to consider is a GPS tracker that your child can keep on them. There are many systems available. Many are designed to be attached to your child’s clothing for young kids. Or, you can download an app if your child carries a smartphone. If they wander away, you will have a way to find them. You can even alert the authorities for additional security resources.
Dealing With Pests and Small Animals
Kids with autism are naturally curious. That means if you have small pests, like rodents or spiders, your child may not understand that it’s not safe to touch or play with these creatures. Make sure to clearly lay out which small friends can be dangerous and let your child know the exact actions they shouldn’t take, like picking up snakes or handling insects.
Since kids with autism are also frequently sensitive to chemicals and smells, traditional pest repellants can do more harm than good. They can easily pick up, breath in, or ingest toxic chemicals.
There are steps you can take to safely address pest management. Eco-friendly pest control is a good option that eliminates the need for toxic products. For example, ultrasonic pest repellers use sound waves that people can’t hear to eliminate bugs and critters. The latest pest control technology includes nontoxic heat treatments that use infrared to target and eliminate pests. These devices are not always as reliable as chemical solutions but are much safer for your whole family.
The Downside of Technology
These solutions can be helpful, but when it comes to technology, moderation is a wise choice. Some of the challenges you may face include:
- Costs: Higher electric bills and frequent drains on batteries can make tech expensive.
- Physical health: Some studies claim that overexposure to Wi-Fi may harm your health. Of particular concern are children who use cell phones extensively.
- Privacy: Sensors and tracking devices can be hacked. Whatever devices you use, be careful when you share your data.
- Mental health: Children can easily get addicted to devices like phones and tablets.
- Environment: You may leave a larger carbon footprint than you’d like.
It’s wise to use technology to create a safe and friendly atmosphere. Just make sure you set boundaries for yourself and your child.