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5 Water Safety Tips for Your Autistic Child
Swimming is a favorite summer activity, but if you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there are extra dangers that need your attention. Children with autism are more likely to wander, and in those cases, they are often drawn to water. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children with autism, and it is so important parents take the necessary steps to keep special children safe.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Not every child likes to be in the water, especially children that struggle with sensory issues. Nonetheless, all children should still be aware of water safety in case of accidental slips or falls into a pool or river. The following five tips can help ensure that your child is safe this summer.
- Review pool safety – Talk to your child about what a pool is and why it can be dangerous. Insist that a child should never go near a pool or other body of water without an adult present and establish how your child can communicate with you their desire to swim or go near water. For those families who have pools at home, the pool should be fenced, and gates should have alarms. This way, you can be alerted if your child attempts to gain access to the water.
- Educate and familiarize – Social stories are a great way to help your child with autism learn about the rules of a swimming pool and become familiar with the surroundings. If your child is anxious about the water, start with visits to the pool side without getting in the water at all. This is also the perfect opportunity to establish rules for your child about play around and in water. Stick your toes in the water if your child is willing and have fun dangling your feet by the water’s edge.
- Swim lessons – Every child should take swim lessons! There are specific classes available to children with ASD as well as children who have sensory challenges that make it possible for every child to learn how to swim. Even if your child doesn’t want to swim by choice, they will have the skills to help themselves if they were to ever fall in water. For children that are excited by water, they will love every second of the games they get to play together during lessons.
- Use appropriate swim gear – Your child may still require a life jacket or flotation device around water, even if they aren’t planning on swimming. It’s a smart precaution to take if your child decides to take a leap into the water. It can also offer reassurance when attempting a new skill and teaching independence, which should be a goal for this summer anyways!
- Be involved – Your child looks to you for support. If they are scared or uncertain, watching you swim in the water may be all the reassurance they need to brave the pool themselves. Parents should be hands-on whenever children are in the water, and even with a confident swimmer, you should stay close by. Your encouragement will be what helps your child succeed.
Water can be so much fun, but accidents can happen in seconds. Children with autism are vulnerable to drowning incidents, because the reflection and movement of the water is so enticing. Don’t wait for an emergency to take action. Water safety starts with preventative steps, and if you have a child that is prone to wandering, AngelSense can also help. It is a challenge, especially for children who would rather be anywhere than in the water, but your child is more capable than you know. Take time to teach your child water safety for a fun and safe summer.