Staying Safe Around Water


Swimming can provide recreational opportunities for individuals with Autism and other developmental disabilities year-round. Parents and caregivers, however, are sometimes fearful and anxious at the thought of being around water with their loved ones due to safety concerns.

According to the National Library of Medicine, drowning is the leading cause of death among individuals with Autism. One study noted a reason for the high rate of drowning is that children with Autism often have a fascination with water and are specifically prone to “elopement,” or wandering. Trouble following directions, communication challenges, and limited awareness of safety and surroundings also can increase the risk.

There are ways to reduce the risk of drowning. This might include installing child safety locks on doors that lead outside, pool alarms, fences around yards and home pools, and using GPS monitoring devices for individuals prone to wandering.

Since drowning often is silent and can happen quickly, always supervise children around the water and identify who is responsible for watching each child. Prepare everything for bath time before putting a child in the tub, and remember to empty out buckets and small pools when they are not being used. It also is recommended that everyone learn CPR and first aid.

Another way to reduce the risk of drowning is through water safety lessons that focus on skills needed to get to safety should a person fall into any body of water. This includes learning to fall into deep water, returning to the surface after submersion, floating or treading water to get acclimated, turning around and moving through the water to safety, then exiting.

The Autism Society of Greater Akron initiated its Water Safety Program in 2017 in response to the drowning of a local child with Autism. To learn more about this program, visit