Summer Water Safety Tips for Children with Autism

Summer Water Safety Tips for Children with Autism

Date: July 20, 2015
Author: Sarah Pope, M.S., BCBA, Vice President of Clinical Operations, Early Autism Project

Summer is here, which means lots of time outside, and in many cases playing in or near water!

While swimming and playing in water are great activities and experiences for children, we should remember this fun activity can also be quite dangerous.

Children can drown without making a sound and drowning is a leading cause of injury related deaths among children on the autism spectrum. It takes only one inch of water for drowning to occur, and 90 percent of drowning deaths occur while children are supervised. Children may also be unaware of things such as water depth, water temperature, or water currents.

Therefore, it’s critical that our children are taught ways to safely enjoy water!

Summer Water Safety Tips for Children with Autism:

  • Consider swimming lessons if possible. Discuss with an instructor any concerns you may have regarding how your child will perform when in the water. It may be necessary for your child to ease into the pool and gradually get used to the water before lessons begin.
  • Provide reinforcers and preferred items and activities when children perform difficult tasks related to swimming and water. This could include tolerating getting into the water, getting out when a whistle is blown for “adult swim time,” or leaving the pool when instructed.
  • Use “floaties” and toys to keep children afloat in deeper water until they are confident and capable swimmers.
  • Ensure that children are supervised closely at all times while swimming.
  • Teach water safety when possible. This may include establishing and practicing rules such as “never go into water unless a grown up is with you.”

Please also consider discussing any concerns you have about your child and water with your child’s coordinator at any time. Happy Summer!

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