Summer time usually means pool time for most kids. The weather’s hot and sticky and the nice, cool water can feel great. Whether your kids spend time at the slides and diving boards; like to play water games with their friends; or prefer floating along calmly on a raft, safety should be the number one thing for pool time. That is especially true of families with autistic kids, since drowning is the leading cause of death for children with ASD.
Here are a few tips to help keep everyone safe at the pool and to ensure everyone has a good time – all summer long.
Introduce Water Early
The first step in water safety for children with autism, or any child, is to introduce them early. As with anything, your child will feel more comfortable around water if it is familiar. Feeling comfortable will help to reduce any feelings of fear or anxiety.
Discourage Wandering/ Water Safety
The downside of familiarity is the feeling of over confidence. And that over confidence may lead them into a dangerous situation with water. As autistic kids do have a tendency to wander off, it is imperative that proper safety precautions are taken. Be sure any pools have adequate fencing and locks to keep the child from wandering in. Gently tell your child about the dangers associated with water, too, so that they can be aware themselves.
Enroll in Swim lessons
Autistic children can absolutely learn to swim, and as with all children, they should be enrolled in swimming lessons. Accidents can still happen even in the safest of water environments, so teaching an autistic child to swim will help to prevent drowning. They will be better equipped to help themselves out of a dangerous situation. The National Autism Association maintains a list of YMCAs that offer special needs swimming lessons.
Stay Nearby When Kids are in the Water
Even if kids can swim and you’ve taken all the safety precautions you can, accidents can still happen. And they usually occur in a split second. Whenever your children are playing in the pool, it is important to stay nearby. And as tempting as it is to read a book or take a little nap in the sun, you shouldn’t do so while your kids are in the pool.
Inform Pool Staff, Friends and Neighbors
Inform anyone who may regularly see your child at a swimming environment of his or her special needs. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes (or 12) on your child to help prevent a water emergency from occurring. It only takes a second, and an informed friend, neighbor or regular lifeguard may be the difference in keeping your child safe.
Summer is about having fun. Remembering these water safety tips will help keep your child safe so that the whole family can enjoy pool time.
Now get to the pool . . . and don’t forget the sunscreen!