Be Safe: Prevention Resources for Professionals

Listen and Observe

  • Listen to what children tell you, especially if they seem uncomfortable
  • Be aware of any changes in behavior or emotions
  • Pay attention to any increases in self-stimulating, self-injurious, or repetitive behaviors, or development of new behaviors

Discuss Feelings

  • Assess child’s ability to identify and label feelings.Use photos/pictures or icons when needed
  • Practice labeling feelings in different situations and telling adults about feelings. Use photos/pictures or icons when needed


  • Talk about “okay” and “not okay” touches
  • Okay touches: high five with friends, goodnight kiss or hug from parents
  • Not okay touches:hitting, pulling hair, or touching private parts

Safety Planning

  • Talk about what to do in uncomfortable, hurtful, or dangerous situations: leave the situation, ignore comments, yell for help, tell the person to stop, say no, tell a trusted adult
  • Name adults who the child can ask for help in various settings
  • Have a concrete plan in place for what to do and how to tell someone if they feel uncomfortable and ROLE PLAY and practice talking to trusted adults


  • Talk to children about their rights, including the right to be safe
  • Explain that parents, teachers, and other adults make choices for children, but children can also make choices to keep themselves safe
  • Provide opportunities every day for children to make choices
  • Allow children to be independent


  • Use positive discipline
  • Do not shame or make children feel bad about themselves


  • If a child has been abused, learn about counseling options for the child and family

Personal Care

  • Make sure that the bathroom is private and that the child is comfortable with the adult that is responsible for hygiene by asking them first
  • Before helping child use the toilet or clean themselves, tell them what you are doing and ask permission


  • If child is nonverbal – decide on words and symbols to communicate personal safety
  • Provide a whistle or alarm device to signal emergencies


  • Have conversations about what is safe to share and what is not
  • Learn about cyber safety
  • Make sure safety features are activated on children’s devices


  • Define what a secret is: Someone tells you something and says not to tell anyone else
  • Explain that secrets can sometimes hurt people
  • Tell a trusted adult if someone tells them to keep a secret or says they will hurt them if they tell anyone their secret

Teach that Everyone Deserves to be Treated Well

  • People can say no when they don’t want something to happen
  • Make sure everyone has a trusted person they can talk to

Goal Setting

  • Help write down goals, develop objectives, and track progress. Target goals for building relationships, self-esteem, and life goals.

Teach Problem Solving Skills For Relationships

  • Teach social skills to address problems like conflict resolution and saying “no”
  • Practice identifying alternative solutions to problems

Encourage Decision-Making

  • Practice making choices in different settings so they are able to leave a situation that feels uncomfortable or crosses sexual boundaries
  • Practice clear communication so they are comfortable communicating if they don’t approve of an activity or action

Teach About Different Types of Relationships

  • Give examples of similar and different relationships and what makes them healthy
  • Teach about relationships with different people – strangers, acquaintances, service providers, family members, etc

Promote Self-Advocacy

  • Teach listening skills and assertiveness
  • Provide education on rights and community resources that build self-esteem and autonomy

Promote Self-Awareness and Self-Understanding

  • Identify ways to meet physical and psychological needs
  • Understand and accept individual differences
  • Identify strategies for dealing with stress and frustration

Tips when screening for abuse

  • Research suggests that computer-assisted screening may work best for individuals with autism or developmental delays.
  • Ask questions in a private area to promote safety and confidentiality.
  • Use open ended questions and allow the person time to process and respond.
  • When screening, it’s important to screen for all types of abuse, as when someone is experiencing one type of abuse – it’s likely they may also be experiencing other types.
  • Avoid asking leading questions, allow the person to share in their own words what happened.
  • The Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5) is considered the “gold standard” to screen for abuse. This is a self-report tool that screens for potentially traumatic events. While typically administered in a paper and pencil format, it can be entered into a computer for individuals to report electronically.

If you suspect someone may have been abused, some potential screening questions may include:

  • Has anyone ever touched your private parts when you did not want them to?
  • Has anyone in your home ever hit, punched or slapped you?
  • Do you get enough to eat and drink in your home?
  • Does anyone ever call you names or threaten to hurt you?

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
Teaching Personal Safety This resource provides information for professionals who work with children with autism on how to teach and address personal safety skills. pdf Download file: Teaching Personal Safety
Teaching Self-Determination and Relationship Building Skills provides information for professionals working with adults on how to teach self-determination and relationship building skills to help prevent sexual abuse and assault. pdf Download file: Teaching Self-Determination and Relationship Building Skills
Screening for Abuse provides information for professionals working with individuals who have autism on different ways to screen for abuse in adults. pdf Download file: Screening for Abuse

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.