Being Safe Around Water

Many children with autism and other developmental disabilities are powerfully drawn to water but do not understand the dangers. Parents and caregivers can help protect their children by assisting with the development of proper water safety skills.

Here are a few things parents can do with their children:

  • Take adaptive swim classes with your child at an early age at a local YMCA or other recreational facilities in your community. If he or she cannot learn conventional stokes, have the child learn “drown proofing,” a water survival technique that will help him or her stay afloat until help arrives.
  • Find the correct life jacket that best meets your child’s needs to wear anytime the child is near water such as a pool, lake, river, fountain, pond, hot tub or any other open water.
  • In a lake or pool, make a rule that they cannot go past their “water marker,” i.e. their belly button or navel – whichever one is appropriate to their level of swimming ability.
  • Always be within arm’s reach of the child when he or she is in or around any open water.
  • Be sure to drain bathtubs and other small containers of water when you are finished using them. If your concern is serious, consider putting safety locks on toilet seats if needed. Put motion detector alarms/safety locks on all hot tubs, landscape ponds or other water sources around your home.

Remember that safety is essential when dealing with potentially dangerous situations. There will be several opportunities at teachable moments, which can help you show your child or other children with autism how to remain safe in and around water.

Alison Donigan, M.S., L.L.P.
Co-Executive Director of PsychSystems, a program of Starr Commonwealth


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