Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with autism. According to a study published in Pediatrics, children with ASD are 160 times more likely to drown than their peers – as a result, it's essential to take a few of the following steps to alter these statistics and keep children with autism safe in and around water.
Identify potential risks
Children with ASD may be drawn to water and have a fascination with it, making them more likely to wander into bodies of water. It's crucial to identify potential risks, such as open pools or lakes, and take measures to prevent access to them. Installing fences or barriers around pools and ensuring all access points are secured can help reduce the risk of accidental drowning.
Teach water safety skills
Teaching water safety skills to children with autism is essential to prevent drowning. Enroll them in swim lessons early and ensure they learn skills such as floating, treading water, and basic swimming strokes.
Make sure that you also cover the three most important safety rules:
1. Never swim alone.
2. Always swim under adult supervision.
3. Never enter water without permission.
Use visual supports
Visual supports can help children with ASD understand and retain information more effectively. Use pictures or visual aids to teach water safety skills and rules. Posters, for example,are one way to demonstrate tips or social stories that explain the importance of water safety. These supports can help children with ASD better understand and remember the information that they are taught, which can in turn reduce the risk of accidental drowning.
Create a safety plan
Creating a safety plan can help parents and caregivers be prepared in case of an emergency. The plan should include steps to prevent access to bodies of water, such as securing access points and ensuring all pool and lake areas are properly fenced. Your plan should also outline steps to take in case of an emergency, such as calling 911 and performing CPR. The plan should be communicated to all caregivers, including babysitters and family members.
Supervision is critical when it comes to drowning prevention. Always supervise your child closely when near water and ensure that they are within an arm's reach at all times. Avoid distractions such as phone calls or conversations, and make sure to stay focused on your child's safety. It's also essential to teach other caregivers about water safety and the importance of close supervision when near water.
Identifying potential risks, teaching water safety skills, using visual supports, creating a safety plan, and closely supervising your child can all help reduce the risk of accidental drowning. By being proactive and taking preventative measures, parents and caregivers can help keep children with ASD safe and prevent tragic accidents.