Summer recess from school is just around the corner and many families have scheduled vacations or enrolled their children in camp. It is important to know that children affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at an extremely high risk of drowning. One research study suggests that kids affected by ASD are 160 times more likely to die from drowning compared with the general pediatric population. The most at-risk age group are children between the ages of 2 and 3 years.
Children affected by autism are apt to wander near bodies of water, especially when they are feeling anxious. According to researcher Dr. Guohua Li, children impacted by autism “tend to have an affinity to water bodies–like pools or ponds or rivers. They need to touch or feel the water to get that kind of calming effect, so they wade into the water, and they drown.”
Interventions to decrease drowning:
- Enroll the child in swimming classes. Contact your local YMCA and Red Cross to inquire about swimming lessons for children diagnosed with ASD.
- Children with autism are at high risk for elopement or wandering according to a study by Catherine Rice, a researcher at CDC. When a child elopes and enters water, the risk of drowning is very high. Preventing elopements by careful supervision and pre-elopement planning can reduce this risk. You may wish to discuss supervision strategies with your Butterfly Effects consultant.
- Some payers will allow Butterfly Effects staff to teach pool or water safety to children with the family present. We will only implement water safety programs while supervised by individuals certified in water safety skills.
- Some payers will allow Butterfly Effects staff to attend swimming classes with your child. Our job is to assist in the teaching of water safety skills to your child using ABA-based procedures. During these classes, families must be present, the BCBA must modify the treatment plan to accommodate water safety, and our staff must be comfortable teaching these skills in a pool.
- Please fence your pool with self-latching and self-locking child-proof gates, drain covers, and dedicated adult “water watchers”.
- Parents should contact agencies like the US Coast Guard with a list of approved flotation devices.
We hope your children have a fun and productive summer. Butterfly Effects has consultants available to assist families with water safety recommendations upon request.