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Autism Awareness and Drowning Prevention Strategies


Drowning is among the leading causes of death for individuals with autism. Statistics from the Autism Society of Florida reveal an unsettling trend: Children with ASD face a risk of drowning, both nonfatal and fatal, that is 160 times higher than that of their neurotypical peers, making the need for autism awareness and drowning prevention strategies critical. 

Drowning prevention measures must be tailored to the needs of those on the autism spectrum and those with other neurodevelopment disorders.


Key Strategies for Autism-Awareness and Drowning Prevention

1. Find Specialized Swim Lessons: Engage with programs and facilities that are aware of the challenges that autism presents and that offer specialized swim lessons that address these needs directly.

2. Focus on Sensory Integration: Approach water exposure gradually, respecting each child’s sensory sensitivities, to foster a safer and more positive relationship with water.

3. Select Appropriate Learning Environments: For effective learning, choose swim settings that align with your child’s attention and sensory preferences, utilizing quieter times or private lessons to reduce overstimulation.

4. Prepare with Familiarization: Use tools like video modeling and visual schedules to demystify the swimming experience, making the pool and other bodies of water a familiar and less intimidating place.

5. Consistency is Key: Regularly reinforce safety skills and rules to build competence in the water. Consider asking your child’s swim instructor about best practices for the home and ways you can reinforce what they learned during swim lessons.

6. Establish Clear Water Safety Rules: Implement structured, consistent guidelines around water activities to provide a predictable framework for safety.

7. Wandering Prevention: Educate your community about your child’s needs. Alert your neighbors to your family members’ wandering habits and provide them with contact info if they come across them without a companion outside of your home.

8. Secure your home and pool area against unsupervised access: If you have a pool, you should have a pool fence that is at least 4 feet high with a self-closing, self-latching gate. If there are accessible water features, (neighboring pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, etc.), having alarms on exits will help alert you in the case that any door is opened.

9. Practice Active Supervision: Many children on the autism spectrum are drawn to water yet may not fully grasp the dangers it presents or understand the concept of personal safety. Close, Constant, Capable supervision helps prevent wandering and ensures immediate intervention in case of an emergency.

Adopting these strategies helps contribute to a safer environment for individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. As we champion autism awareness, let’s also amplify our commitment to drowning prevention, ensuring that safety measures are inclusive, effective, and responsive to the unique needs of every child.