Research has shown children with autism are more prone to being involved in motor accidents than neurotypical children—potentially because motorists are unaware of the challenges many of these children encounter when exposed to everyday traffic.
A lack of road-safety measures, coupled with the child’s inability to recognize danger, has resulted in too many autistic victims of traffic-related accidents and has caused growing concern among autism parents. Therefore, I see it as imperative to launch a motorist awareness campaign solely geared toward sensitizing drivers to autistic children’s challenges so that accidents can be avoided.
Road safety awareness-building could involve teaching flexible thought patterns and prompt problem-solving ability. For example, drivers would be taught what to do when a child seems to be lost in the middle of the road, when he/she is crossing and cannot hear the car horn’s sound, and other situations that may involve a child with special needs.
This type of campaign could teach motorists the characteristics associated with autistic children. Greater awareness is necessary because some children with autism wander away from safe environments into motorists’ paths without knowing it. They may come across scenarios that captivate their attention, such as an adult walking a dog or a fight between two adults.
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Some children on the spectrum experience difficulty understanding road safety features such as distinguishing road signs and traffic lights and knowing how to use them.
These challenges can come about due to many ASD children’s struggles with:
- Reasoning: Some children with autism find it difficult to think spontaneously and prefer solutions immediately. For example, if a child has learned to cross roads with the help of the green cross code for pedestrians, he/she may be unable to cross a road if there is no green cross code
- Communication: Some spectrum children experience difficulty encoding information from adults or expressing whatever challenge they may be going through
- Understanding social contexts: Safety social contexts that apply when using the road might be difficult to understand for a child with ASD. He/She may not yet realize chit-chatting, playing with toys, or dancing while crossing roads is unsafe.
- Sensitivity to sound, light, and sights: Some children may be sensitive to lights and loud noises and react with anxiety.
- Forgetfulness/intense fascination: It might be that a child is in the habit of forgetting safety road crossing tips like “stop, look, and listen, then look again.” Other autistic children are fascinated by objects found on the road like cars, billboards, road lights, sirens, etc. Thus, they are likely to be distracted while crossing the road.
Creating an awareness campaign for motorists could greatly impact people’s driving abilities and emergency skills to reduce crash involvement and improve emergency maneuvers and collision avoidance techniques. Who’s with me?
This article was featured in Issue 116 – Enhancing Communication Skills