Line of sight supervision is often required for children with significant behavioral issues. This post covers the specifics of what is line of sight supervision and how to do line of sight supervision in a home situation.
What is Line of Sight Supervision?
Line of sight supervision is careful supervision of a child with special needs so that the child is within the line of sight of an adult at all times. Therapists, foster care caseworkers, and others often use the words “line of sight supervision” when referring to children who need this type of support, but few people explain the details of how you actually DO that in a home situation. So, let’s dig into the logistics.
We have been providing line of sight supervision to our children with special needs for many years. I’m here to tell you that it’s very challenging to provide this type of ongoing care, but it is possible.
A child who requires line of sight supervision potentially poses a danger to himself, other children, pets, and property because of his behavior.
Line of sight supervision means that when the child is awake, the child must be in the viewing sight of an adult who is “on duty” caring for that child. Most people would consider line of sight supervision as you don’t always have to be looking directly at the child, but he must be within your viewing area.
If you are working with a child who may need more intense help, check out this resource about how to find residential treatment for children.
Types of High Needs Supervision
Line of sight is one type of high supervision, but there are others.
Arm’s reach supervision is another type of supervision that we use. There are times when our children must stay within an adult’s reach, such as a child that self-harms or a child who is physically dangerous when playing with other children. This could even include hand-holding supervision, such as taking a child in public who is a flight risk and requiring that he holds hands with an adult while out.
Rubber band supervision is what we call supervision with high-needs children that has some give and take, but is still line of sight supervision. Think of it like a stretchy rubber band. When the child is struggling or in a risky situation (such as playing with another child), the rubber band is very small and the child needs to stay close at hand and within your reach. If the child is doing well that day or in a low risk situation, we allow the rubber band to stretch. If the child’s behavior becomes more escalated, we bring the band back in. This type of supervision requires careful, direct explanation to the child of the expectations.
Line of sight supervision means the child must be within the eyesight of an adult. Tell the child “stay where you can see me”. Do not say “stay where I can see you” because the child does not know what you can see. Recognize that most children with this level of behavior issues will not or cannot stay in your sight at all times, but it’s still important to repeat this direction so that expectations are clear.
How to Do Line of Sight Supervision
Line of sight supervision in a home setting is quite different than a professional setting such as a classroom or residential type setting. Keep in mind that professionals are paid, have specific ratios that are assigned by state laws, and these adults’ primary responsibility for those hours of the day is keeping the children safe who are in their care. Typically environments are set up for this type of supervision as well.
Line of sight supervision in a home is more challenging because it is just that – a home. Careful planning is key, along with realistic expectations of what you will be able to accomplish each day.
Here are tips for how to do line of sight supervision in a home.
Prepare yourself mentally.
Probably the biggest challenge of line-of-sight supervision is the mental one. This type of supervision is exhausting. Recognize the challenge of what you are doing and adjust your expectations accordingly. You cannot get as much done as you used to, and what you do accomplish will happen more slowly. You are caring for a human being who needs you very much.
When you are “on”, this is your primary task and the main job you will accomplish for the day.
If you need to go into the kitchen to cook, your child goes with you. When you do laundry, the child goes with you. When you rake the leaves, the child goes with you.
When you and your spouse or another adult are in the home, talk clearly each time about who is in charge of supervising and who is getting other tasks accomplished. Incidents can occur when each parent assumes the other one is watching.
Once we were at an outdoor gathering of several families and my husband was watching my son line-of-sight. As my husband stood chatting with a group of adults, my son went around the side of the house with a group of kids. My husband immediately walked away from the conversation and went to bring my son back into his sight. One of the other parents commented, “Wow, you really take this supervision seriously.”
Yes. A commitment to line of sight supervision requires great sacrifice on the part of the parents.
Yet also recognize you are human and there is no way to do it perfectly. There will be times you slip. Most times, nothing unfortunate will happen. If something does happen, do not load yourself with guilt. No person can do anything perfectly, including this type of careful supervision.
We do our best, and that is the best we can do.
No one person can care for another person 24/7 forever. Get help from other family members, get respite, use childcare, or do whatever you need to do in order to take breaks.
I know this help for children with behavior needs can be very hard to find (believe me, I know), but it is absolutely necessary. If you burn out, you will be no help to your child, other family members, and ultimately yourself.
Use door alarms.
One of the biggest questions I’m asked is, “How do you go to the bathroom?” or “What if someone comes to the door?” and all the many things that happen in daily life that pull you away from your children.
Put an alarm on the child’s bedroom door. These are very inexpensive and readily available. When you need to go to the bathroom, make a phone call, or other situations where you cannot watch the child, he is required to stay in his room and you turn on the door alarm. If he comes out, the alarm will sound.
It is illegal to lock a child into a bedroom due to fire risk.
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Set up your home for supervision.
Do all you can to set up your home in advance.
Keep needed items on hand.
Consider a basket or bag you carry with you with small tasks such as bill paying, books, granola bar, i-pad, and other needed items.
Child-proof the house.
Remove breakable objects, knives and scissors, and objects that can be thrown. If you care if it gets broken, move it somewhere else. Create a safe space (typically the child’s bedroom) that is as absolutely as safe as possible.
Some parents choose to lock their bedroom door at all times (carry the key with you around your neck or in your pocket) and keep items in the bedroom for safe keeping. Another option is to install a lock or lock with keypad on a closet door. (See this post for other options for locking away items in a home setting.) For kids who are highly destructive, paneling can be used on the lower level of bedroom walls and hard, clear plastic can be placed over windows and TV screens.
Remove items that block the line of view, and position furniture so that it’s manageable for you to sit and work and see the children’s play area.
Typically children who need this type of supervision should not share a bedroom with another child. Children are not allowed to go into or play in one another’s bedrooms. Children play in a common area. Children can also play alone in their rooms (using the door alarm if necessary).
Plan for backyard play. Supervise from outside or a window where you have clear vision of the yard. Take note of areas that are not as visible, such as play forts and wooded areas, and plan accordingly.
Consider installing video cameras or a home security system. Video cameras provide challenges as well as helpful benefits. We have video cameras in our home.
A very simple system is a baby monitor with a video camera.
Bigger systems now allow viewing on your ipad or iphone (even while you are at work or away, you can view what is going on at home with these systems) for a relatively inexpensive amount of money.
The downside of video is that if you choose to record, you have huge amounts of data, and there is also slight risk of legal issues. If the camera does not record, someone has to be watching it all the time. Some children are also more able to control their behavior when they know the camera is watching. In my experience, the camera is a helpful tool but it will never replace human supervision.
Keep pets safe.
Consider carefully how you will manage your pets if a child in your home could pose a danger. Keep pets in a sectioned off area of the home that is away from your child’s daily living space, or make a plan to keep the pet next to you at all times.
Your pets rely on you for safety. And, your child’s mental well-being is harmed each time he is allowed to hurt an animal. Animals are therapeutic and it’s important that you child learn to handle pets in an appropriate way, but this interaction needs to be fully supervised.
Think through how you will handle challenging scenarios. This is often the case when out and about. How will you handle an older children who is with the opposite sex parent and needs to go to the bathroom? These types of situations can typically be managed but it’s helpful to plan ahead.
Line of sight supervision is challenging in a home situation, but it can be done with dedication and commitment. Arrange the environment to work for you and plan ahead for situations while out and about. This type of parenting is not easy, but it is possible.
Do you use line of sight supervision for your children? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below.
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