With summer rapidly approaching, it’s a good time for parents of children with autism to give extra thought to their safety.
According to statistics, drowning is the leading cause of death for children and adults with autism, with many of these incidents occurring during wandering-related episodes, so it is very important that parents and caregivers be extra-vigilant during this time of year.
As I’ve stated in a previous article, Project Lifesaver ( http://projectlifesaver.org ) fits individuals with a lightweight tracking device and trains teams to successfully recover them when they get lost. The cost of this service is twenty-five dollars per month for maintenance of the device, although sometimes the services are rendered for free. With the advent of the diagnostic codes, insurance would likely cover it as well. If your child is at risk for wandering, consider availing yourselves of this excellent resource.
Law enforcement agencies recognize this as the best technology available and that employing it significantly improves the chances for a successful outcome when searching for a child with autism or other vulnerable individuals who wander.
Children are able to slip out of the house or yard in the blink of an eye, so consider printing flyers to educate your neighbors on your child’s tendencies and how to contact you quickly, especially if they live near water. It is also a good idea to ask those neighbors to lock fences around their pools and/or cover them when not in use.
Sign up your child for swimming lessons as early as possible and keep them in life jackets until their aquatic skills are well established. Check with your local community center pools and see if they have a special
population programs. I was able to enroll my son with autism in a private class at the same rate as a group class due to his diagnosis.
If your child gets invited to a pool party, risk being impolite by asking the host if an adult with lifeguard qualifications is supervising the event. Try to always attend yourself — no one will watch your child better than you. Too many drowning tragedies have happened in this context. And of course, don’t leave your child unattended, even briefly if water is in the vicinity.
On the bright side, swimming is a wonderful and beneficial activity for children with autism and some of their happiest and most carefree times are spent in the water. Capitalize on their love for water and help them to become safe around it.