Tips That May Help Your Autistic Child Cope After A Car Wreck

Grady Flattmann
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Local Covington, Louisiana attorney focusing 100% on personal injury matters.

For anyone, a car wreck can be an extremely scary and traumatizing event.  It is not uncommon for someone to have difficulty driving again after a wreck.  Some may even seek therapy to help overcome the psychological trauma associated with the wreck.  For someone with autism, a car accident can be especially traumatic. 

What is autism?:

Autism refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.  (Source: Autism Speaks).  According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 36 children are affected by autism in the United States.  Each person with autism has a unique set of challenges and strengths and some may need more support than others in their daily lives.  Asperger’s is a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.  Someone with Asperger’s may have difficulty with social interaction but have strengths including attention to detail and persistence.

A car accident can be especially traumatic for a person with autism:

Besides being dangerous, car wrecks are loud, violent, and filled with hysteria.  After the wreck itself, emergency vehicles come to the scene blasting their sirens while lights start twirling from every direction.  There are people in all kinds of uniforms assessing the situation and asking questions.  You find yourself on the side of the road watching the scene from a distance.  If you go to the hospital, you may be riding in the back of an unfamiliar vehicle with bright lights almost blinding you. 

For a person with autism, a car wreck can instantly replace a familiar environment with one of chaos and confusion.  If a person with autism has challenges with hypersensitivity, the scenario can feel overwhelming. 

How to help a child with autism after an accident:

For a child with autism, communication may be extremely difficult during and after an accident.  However, there are a few things a parent can do in order to help bridge the communication gap and make sure their child is safe.  Here are a few tips:

At the accident scene:

  • Make first responders aware that your child has autism.  This may help them approach the situation more sensitively and change the way they conduct their injury assessment. 
  • If possible, remove the child from the accident scene.  Try to keep them away from as much unfamiliar stimuli as possible. 
  • If your child must ride in an ambulance or seek medical attention, do your best to provide them with familiar and comforting items (ie. headphones, iPad, etc.). 

After the accident:

  • Follow up with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible.  Their pediatrician is likely more familiar with your child and may be able to provide a more complete assessment. 
  • Try to reestablish your child’s routine as soon as possible.  If your car was damaged or totaled in the accident, be mindful that your child may be apprehensive riding in an unfamiliar rental or new car. 
  • As with any accident, if your child was in a car seat, replace the car seats.
  • Seek ways to communicate with your child to alleviate his or her fears and anxiety.  Let them know that you (and they) are safe. 
  • Be aware of triggers which may remind your child of the accident.  Try to anticipate and prepare for situations where your child may encounter triggers.   
  • Look for ways to utilize your child’s unique gifts to help them overcome their anxiety. 

At Flattmann Law, we have represented numerous children with autism who have been involved in car accidents.  We have heard parents tell stories about the horror of ambulance rides across the causeway, how the sound of a cast being cut off was excruciating, and how hard it was to assess a child for injuries after a wreck.  We have heard how a child with Asperger’s was so focused on something on the road that he didn’t see a car heading toward him. 

Since every child with autism is unique, their parents are best equipped to guide them through the chaos of a car accident and everything that goes with it.  Parents are encouraged to use the resources they have available, including pediatricians and therapists, to help their children cope with the repercussions of a car wreck. 

Have You Been Injured In An Accident And Searching For A Personal Injury Lawyer To Handle Your Car Wreck Claim?

If you have been in an accident and are searching for a personal injury lawyer to handle your car wreck claim contact us online or call our Covington office directly at 985.590.6182 to schedule your free consultation today. Flattmann Law serves clients on the Northshore, including Covington, Mandeville, Abita Springs, Bogalusa, Franklinton, Folsom, Hammond, Lacombe, Pearl River, and Slidell.