Autistic Children and Water Safety

photo by Louise Sattler

H20- Water.  A very common element in our world. Often to be admired from a sandy shore, used to quench a thirst or to bathe. However, for children with Autism- water represents a much different element. It is soothing. Calming. Therapeutic. Quiet. And, sometimes dangerous.

Children on the spectrum have for years been offered water therapy to help with sensory integration, enhance communication skills and improve socialization.  There is no doubt that water therapy is often essential with helping children with Autism and I have seen for myself the outstanding benefits.  Yet , because water is often familiar and a preferred environment for these children, it also can pose some significant concerns.

Note that it has been reported that over 90% of children with Autism wander which is why if a child is missing in your neighborhood or school- check local pools and other waterways- quickly!  Annually, children with Autism who have fled a scene due to curiosity or fear are sadly found on the bottom of pools. For some states, such as Florida, promotions for  water safety courses for children with special needs have been implemented. What a wonderful idea! BRAVO!

First Responders who attend my presentations often are surprised to learn how a child with Autism may flee. Many are unaware that during an emergency situation or even something as commonplace as a child pulling a fire alarm by accident,  that they need to be extra mindful  of keeping tabs on children with special needs.   Often EMS learn for the first time about the threat water  poses to children who  have heightened sensory awareness.  They often are unaware that Autistic children may use water/pools as a way to seek calm and quiet from the chaos that ensues during school evacuations or other emergencies.

I have found a several interesting references and articles.  Here are just a few:

SUN SENTINEL  

WATER AWARENESS  

PARENTING SQUAD

SPIRIT OF AUTISM

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To learn more about Louise’s presentations please connect via her website:  SIGNING FAMILIES

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