Next to the family room, your home’s backyard is probably the focus of a lot of activity, no matter what time of year it is. But also think of all the backyard mishaps that occur: getting stung by wasps after accidentally knocking down a nest; stumbling over a tree branch that had blown down in a storm; getting bitten by mosquitos in wet, uncut grass; having wild animals wander into an unfenced yard looking for food; or even playing on a rickety set of swings.
And the fear of these and other mishaps are more concerning for single parents of autistic children. The most recent studies show that one out of every 59 children in Australia has the disorder, and any one of those children is at risk of wandering off when left unsupervised in an unfenced backyard.
While the backyard isn’t necessarily an unintentional obstacle course, there can be enough small hazards at any time of the year that can cause any child to stumble, fall, get stung or bitten by a few dozen mosquitos, or even leave the yard. There might be a few places where grass doesn’t grow that become slippery with mud after a hard rain. And these and other hazards aren’t limited to possibly harming your children. Your family pets, too, can also get stung, bitten or encounter wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, or skunks if the yard isn’t fenced in well or at all.
Backyards should be places of fun and enjoyment, but parents, especially single parents of autistic children, need to keep them safe. Here are four tips to help.
Invest In A Fence
One of the fears that parents of autistic children have is of the child leaving the yard when unsupervised and wandering off. That puts the child in a dangerously vulnerable state. In addition, wild animals could wander into the yard and fight with, and maybe even bite, your dog or even the child. These animals are especially active when the weather starts getting cooler because they are foraging for food. A wooden privacy fence would be the best way to secure your yard, along with a locked gate as added security. The fence and locked gate would keep the child (and dog) in and any wild animals out. And if you’re concerned about cost, remember that many improvements you make to your home -- especially ones that increase its security -- also increase its overall value in the eyes of appraisers.
Mow and Rake the Lawn and Fill Holes
There aren’t too many things as unsightly - or even as unsafe - as an unmanaged lawn. Kids and dogs alike can pick up ticks and get bitten by mites and gnats, plus uncut grass can hide small holes in the ground that can cause someone to trip or twist an ankle. Good Housekeeping recommends that you set your lawn mower blade at a height between 2.5 and 3 inches. That might not take off as much, but the lawn will look healthier, and the clippings will be shorter, so there will be less to rake. Also, inspect the yard regularly for holes or just small indentations in the lawn. Fill them with dirt and reseed them so they don’t become pockets of mud.
Check For Insect Dangers
If there’s one thing that can get in the way of outdoor summer fun in the backyard it’s dealing with pests such as wasps, yellowjackets and hornets. They are even more dangerous if a child or pet is allergic to their stings. In addition, some children with autism intensely fear them. Some of the best ways single parents can prevent visits from these types of insects, especially wasps, is to hose off any areas where soft drinks have been spilled; throw away any fallen fruit or berries and keep trash cans closed. These insects, wasps especially, are attracted to any sugary substances. If you encounter a nest of any of these types of insects, do not try to knock it down. (There’s a reason for the simile “as mad as a hornet.”) Instead, treat the areas at night with a spray, or call an exterminator.
Regularly Inspect Swings and Other Backyard Apparatus
If you keep your backyard securely gated, grass cut, insect nests removed and playground apparatus in good repair, all children, parents and pets can safely enjoy it.