Date Published: 9 Feb '22

Autism and Drowning: Navigating Water Safety for Individuals on the Spectrum.

Autistic persons face specific dangers over and above the general population, which are easily preventable with education and awareness. Families with children who have disabilities identify swimming as their favourite activity; despite this, drowning accounts for 90% of deaths in ASD children under fourteen. Difficulty generalising learnt skills across different environments can result in an ASD child who can swim at the beach becoming a drowning victim in a dam. Further heightening this risk is a well-known attraction to water and a propensity to wander. Children with ASD wander at four times the rate of non-neurodivergent children. Also, nearly 50% of children with ASD attempt to escape from a safe environment. Despite this, only 50% of parents with autistic children report receiving advice about wandering by health professionals. 

Lastly, those with ASD perceive risk and anticipate danger differently from those without ASD.

Thankfully, reducing the risk is simple

  1. Raising awareness within our communities 
  2. Supporting families with information and awareness
  3. Providing health professionals with specialised resources
  4. Implementing specialised swimming training across various contexts
  5. Developing specific swimming risk awareness tools for children with ASD

The National Autism Association has developed the Big Red Safety Tool Kit for parents, friends and family of persons with disabilities. This comprehensive document contains resources to assist parents and activities to complete with your child to increase their awareness of the dangers associated with wandering. This resource is well worth downloading, completing and sharing with others to raise awareness.

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