It's summertime, and that means pools and beaches are open. More than 50% of all drowning accidents occur in the summer months, and according to the National Autism Association, drowning is the No. 1 cause of injury-related deaths in children with Autism. Children with ASD have a strong attraction to water, as money children do, but they also have a tendency to wander off. This can be a tragic combination and it is important to take a proactive approach.
Teach Your Child
Start teaching your child at a young age about the dangers of water and enroll her in swimming lessons. You may need to do private lessons in order to avoid distractions or schedule the lesson during a time of day when less people will be at the pool. When teaching your child, make the steps to swimming easy to follow with instructional photos. Go at your child's pace, ensuring she understands each part of the process.
Also, make sure that your child understands that she is not to go near the water unless an adult is with her whether it is the ocean or a kiddy pool. Explain the water rules with great attention to detail and practice what your child is learning.
Safety Around Pools
If you have a pool at your home, make sure it is gated and locked at all times and that your child knows not to go near it without you. You should also install an alarm on the gate for extra protection. Make sure the pool rules are posted and understood by your child.
Safety Around Lakes and Rivers
Lakes and rivers can be extra dangerous because they are often too dark to see the bottom. Slippery rocks and floating debris can cause injuries, so be sure to use water shoes, prepare your child for any fish that might scare her and proceed with caution.
Safety at the Ocean
The ocean can be an especially dangerous place to swim thanks to large waves, strong currents and riptides. Be sure to only take your child to a beach with an on-duty lifeguard. Check to see if there are any warnings for the day, including the strength of the waves and riptides. You may even want to put a life vest on your child.
Teach Your Community
Caring for your child with Autism means educating your local community about the dangers of water and about your child's behaviors. Make an informative flyer about your child for your neighbors and the lifeguards and staff of your local pool or beach. Tell them about your child's tendency to wander, and how they can best handle the situation if they should see your child alone, especially near water. Make sure they have your contact information.
Water is dangerous for all children. It only takes two minutes for a child to lose consciousness when submerged in water and only 4-5 minutes for permanent brain damage to occur. Make sure you, your child, your family, friends, and community are educated and prepared for the summer months and year-round water safety.