Drowning Prevention for Children on the Spectrum

Supervision and Swimming Lessons Key to Drowning Prevention for Children on the Spectrum

Hot summer days are often filled with vacations at the beach or trips to the swimming pool for families across America. Special care needs to be taken to ensure that all children, especially those on the autism spectrum, are safe around water.

“Drowning in children on the spectrum has long been a concern, but it is a very preventable cause of death,” said Boys Town South Florida Behavioral Health Clinic’s staff psychologist, Marcela Galicia, Ph. D.

“Many children with autism are prone to wandering and not always aware of their surroundings. This puts them at-risk, especially around water, and that is why supervision, along with teaching and practicing important safety skills, are so important.”

Here are some safety tips to enable the families of children on the spectrum to enjoy a safe and happy summer that includes water-related fun:

  • Supervision – Never leave a child unattended and make sure that they are fully supervised at all times. This can be challenging, so tag-teaming the responsibility between parents or caregivers is highly recommended.
  • Locks, Gates and Tracking Devices - Childproof locks, alarms and gates around swimming pools are imperative. Tracking devices also are a good idea, especially when children are around lakes, rivers or the ocean, and life jackets should always be worn around open water.
  • Swimming lessons – Enroll your child in swimming lessons. Learning to swim is essential for children with autism and many become excellent swimmers with training and practice.
  • Teach replacement behaviors - If needed, therapists can help you teach your child skills that can prevent wandering/elopement (e.g., verbally or non-verbally requesting permission before leaving the house, hand holding without letting go, responding to their name, waiting, etc.).

“The good news is that children with autism, while they may learn differently, can become proficient at many skills with training and practice, “said Galicia. “Therapy also can be a big help in keeping kids with autism safe, by helping them to understand the dangers of wandering and the importance of always asking for permission before setting out on their own.”

For more information, visit Behavioral Health | Boys Town South Florida.