Parents of children with autism and special needs spend thousands and thousand of dollars and countless hours on therapy and healing, yet some forget about the basic fundamentals of child safety. Teaching our children, special needs or not, to wear a seat belt or sit in a car seat is so crucial!
I am concerned about so many Malaysian children who do not wear seat belts or placed in proper car seats. We drive our children to school and therapies to and fro every day, we spend hours in crazy traffic and surrounded by road-rage aggressive drivers. Sitting in a car seat and wearing a seat belt is the FIRST safety skill I taught my children.
In many countries, the seat belt and car seat laws are strictly enforced at all time. Legislation on child safety harness and car restrains are in place and seeks to protect our precious children. However in Malaysia, we seem to take a very relaxed approach when it comes to passenger safety, especially child passengers.
Car Accidents Can Happen At Any Time.
I received a phone call from a mother, her son who has autism, jumped out of the moving car while she was driving. He ran into oncoming traffic and a car hit him. He ended up with a broken leg and suffered cuts and bruises. If he had only been wearing a seat belt or placed in a car seat, his mother would have had enough time to stop him before he opened the door.
I see children rolling around in the leg space of the car, crawling and playing. I see kids lying on the headrest of the back seat of the car. I see kids standing up on seats while parents are driving and speeding down a busy highway. I see kids sitting in the arms of an adult. The adult is safely strapped in the seat belt. But the child is not. Being in the back seat doesn’t protect our children from serious injury if they are not strapped in safely. If there was ever an accident, holding a child in the arms of an adult will not prevent the child from injury. Driving an expensive luxury car equipped with the latest safety features will not help one bit if our children are not wearing seat belts.
Accidents Happen When You Least Expect It.
Many children with autism do not understand or perceive danger. It is up to us as parents to ensure their safety.
Seatbelts Saves Lives
If your child is still non-compliant, incorporate sitting in car seats or wearing seat belts into your child’s individualised education plan (IEP). Ask your therapists to help you with this, use video modelling, visuals, rewards, encouragements, anything that works to ensure our children are safe on the roads. Most of all, BE CONSISTENT.
Children Do What They See Their Parents Do.
I show my children a good example by ensuring that I always put on my seat belt too. My husband and I are both consistent in ensuring that our daughters always gets strapped in before we drive. We wear seat belts not because out of fear that we might get fined by the police. We wear seat belts because we truly believe in the importance of car safety. We also practice other safety habits such as not talking on the phone without a hands-free device while driving. And strictly no TEXTING while driving.
Wearing seat belts is non-negotiable in my family. No seat belts = no driving. SAFETY FIRST!
* I have written about safety issues for children with autism previously. Please read my blog Autism, Law Enforcement and First Responders.