It’s summer! The sun is out, the weather is hot and besides begging for ice cream (and possibly some social distancing play dates), your kids can’t wait to get in the pool. Now that swim season is among us, it is important to discuss water safety and how critical it is for children with autism. Many individuals on the spectrum are drawn to water, some of whom are unable to understand the dangers associated with it.
It is never too early to start teaching your child the importance of water safety. It is good to expose them to water at a young age so they can become comfortable around it. The most obvious way to help prevent tragedy around water is to teach your child to swim or provide them with either public or private swim lessons.
There are several organizations that teach children with autism how to swim. It would be worth while to research an organization like this near you.. Remember that special needs swim lessons aren’t just about swimming itself, but about how to be safe around water.
If your child has not yet been exposed to water, it’s not too late to start. Since many children with autism are visual learners, use visuals like picture cards or social stories to teach rules related to water. Staying safe around water is about more than just the ability to swim. A second component is making sure your child with autism understand the importance of water safety. Even if your child on the spectrum is a capable swimmer, they may still have an attraction to water that can lead to dangerous situations – like a river with a strong current, a shallow pool or an unsafe temperature. Make sure your child understands all of the dangers associated with water.
Take precautions to prevent wandering towards water unsupervised. If your child is drawn to water, make sure to take the appropriate safety precautions to keep your child away from pools or other bodies of water. It is also a really good idea to let your neighbors know about your child’s attraction to water so they can be on alert as well. It is also important to let any first responders in the area know of your child’s special needs. It is a great idea to call them and ask them to send you an Autism Elopment Alert Form that you should fill out and get back to them.
Now that you have the information you need to keep your child with autism safe, enjoy the rest of this incredible summer season!