Autism and Water Don’t Have to be a Deadly Combination..

August 15, 2014 5:57 pm Autism

A special guest post written by Anna Stewart from Drowing Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County. I asked her to write a blog in reference to water safety for children with special needs since they don’t always have the ability to communicate their wants and needs verbally.

Autism & Water Don’t Have to be a Deadly Combination Were you aware… that knowing how to swim is a life saving skill? Just think, does having the ability to throw a ball, ride a bike or play an instrument provide the skills necessary to survive a water related incident?

  • Fact – Regardless of one’s age, gender, socioeconomic status or special need, drowning does not discriminate
  • Fact – Drowning is the leading cause of death of children with autism 14 and younger (National Autism Association)
  • Fact – Children with autism are at a higher risk of drowning due to wandering tendencies (National Autism Association)
  • Fact – Children as young as 6 months can learn to survive with their clothes on if they fell into a body of water. If the necessary precautions are taken however, drowning related incidents involving children with autism can be prevented.
  • Suggested precautions
    • Provide water safety lessons as soon as possible. Make sure the water safety instructor (WSI) is certified in Adaptive Aquatics Suggested precaution
    • Utilize multiple layers of protection inside and outside the home to prevent outside access such as: working door/window locks and alarms, gate alarms, isolation fencing directly surrounding the pool with a properly fitted self locking/self latching gate. If one mechanism fails there are others that can provide a barrier to the water.
    • Use age appropriate video narratives to discuss water safety. If visual cues work, place signs like STOP or DO NOT ENTER on all doors that lead outside .

- If a child can’t swim and you are enjoying a water recreational activity, make sure a properly fitted US Coast Guard approved life vest is worn at all times.

For more information on water safety and drowning prevention, visit the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County’s website at


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