While summer is a fantastic time to enjoy the sun and spend more time outside with family, it’s critical to prioritize pool safety for children with autism as you prepare for water activities like trips to the community pool or beach.
This blog by ABA Centers of America presents families and children with autism information about pool safety to ensure outdoor experiences are more inclusive and safer for everyone. This blog shares tips and vital information to facilitate safer water experiences for the neurodivergent community, as drowning remains one of the most prevalent causes of mortality among this population.
Many individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are attracted to large bodies of water for several reasons, often involving sensory sensitivities and inexperience. While water can be excellent for developmental play, exploration, and sensory experiences, it’s vital not to gloss over the inherent dangers it can pose, especially in neurodiversity.
By comprehending the needs and unique obstacles of those on the spectrum, it’s possible to prevent horrible accidents while promoting safer daily practices. Over the last decade, tragedies related to pool safety for children with autism have taught us a lot about accident prevention and better responding to crises involving water.
By considering the behavioral tendencies, sensory sensitivities, and communication barriers, children with autism often experience, parents and caregivers can prepare themselves with the tools and resources they need to ensure time in the pool is fun for everyone, including kiddos with ASD.
So, let’s dive into all things pool safety with an informed and optimistic outlook to ensure we have the most epic splash season yet!
Pool Safety for Children with Autism Really Matters
Parents of children with autism face unique obstacles as the seasons change. Ensuring children with autism have secure yet fun summers can take a few extra steps, given the challenges autism can present. Still, it’s a worthwhile and critical endeavor for caregivers of neurodivergent loved ones.
Individuals with autism have unique experiences. While the characteristics of ASD typically impact developmental areas, every individual with autism presents differently with special interests and behaviors. Providers and parents must consider the needs of the individual they are keeping safe when considering pool safety plans for their family.
Research shows that children with autism are 160 times more inclined to drown than their neurotypical peers, putting them at increased likelihood. This vulnerability is often due to the sensory processing, communication, and behavioral difficulties many on the spectrum experience.
The core features of autism can make it more difficult for individuals to function in the water, including anxiety and difficulty detecting they are intaking water or in critical danger. In some cases, individuals with autism don’t always identify authority figures like police officers, lifeguards, or other able peers to alert in distress, complicating these issues.
Autism and Community Integration
In cases where individuals with autism don’t understand the role or can identify authority figures, they don’t always know how to respond appropriately. For instance, in July 2023, a young boy fell into the Miami River in Florida. Thankfully, a police officer named Ernie Fernandez spotted him falling in and saved his life.
Gratefully, the young boy kissed the officer on the mouth in response to the rescue and didn’t resist due to confusion. However, interactions between neurodivergent individuals with authority figures like police officers and lifeguards are only sometimes as safe. In some cases, exchanges aren’t positive.
ABA Therapy And How It Supports Pool Safety for Children with Autism
The good news regarding pool safety for children with autism is that parents can employ various techniques and security measures to reduce the risk of drowning. ABA therapy is a robust approach that helps many neurodivergent families manage some of the complicated features of autism that can hinder everyday life, including navigating unfamiliar locations like pools and following guidelines.
Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, is a scientifically validated behavioral approach for managing life with autism. ABA therapy teaches skills necessary to everyday living that increase autonomy while addressing problematic behaviors. ABA therapy efficiently supports learning with autism by breaking down routines into achievable, manageable steps and positively reinforcing appropriate responses to promote developmental growth.
For kiddos with autism, ABA therapy can be critical in refining communication, interactions, and conduct. With intensive, highly focused ABA care, children with autism gain essential skills and independence, leading to a higher quality of life.
ABA Therapy Sessions Focusing on Pool Safety
In context to pool safety, ABA therapy teaches children safety skills and risk awareness to prevent drownings and dangerous water incidents. A client’s ABA team, typically consisting of a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), may employ visual aids or role-playing activities, among other ABA-informed interventions, to teach children how to respond in different emergencies that can take place in the water.
During ABA sessions focusing on water safety, the specialist may introduce a child to life jackets and help them tolerate wearing them. Other sessions may focus on behavioral expectations around the pool, like holding onto the ladder or entering the water slowly and carefully. Children may also learn to recognize essential cues and manage expectations.
If the child is afraid of water, the RBT may encourage them to play in the tub or kiddy pool to become more acclimated to the sensory experiences of being surrounded by water. Your child’s ABA specialists will always consider the environment the child will experience when designing treatment plans, considering all variables.
Furthermore, RBTs may utilize repetition and positive reinforcement to promote behaviors like staying near the group leader during group outings or when near the pool. Additionally, children may learn to be more alert around water and respond to warnings about the water’s depth. In a crisis, ABA learners learn how to react if they fall into the water or notice someone else falling in.
Over time, children receiving ABA therapy learn to follow pool guidelines, navigate their environment, or attract attention if in a crisis, leading to confidence around the pool and less risk for negative experiences. Best of all, ABA therapy is always customized and client-centered to ensure clients reach their goals on their level and pace.
Tips for Pool Safety for Children with Autism
Parents can employ a few tips to ensure they utilize the best pool safety practices with their neurodivergent child. When the child with autism is near a pool, they should always wear US Coast Guard-approved life jacket or flotation gear. Also, its critical caregivers set up clear barriers or fencers along the pool area.
Additionally, many experts recommend parents lock pool gates whenever not in use. For children especially drawn to water, ensure consistent supervision, and keep your phone close when playing with them outside. Lastly, swimming lessons tailored to children on the spectrum can also help promote water safety for children at higher risk for accidents in the water.
Safer Summers Are on the Horizon!
Autism doesn’t have to be a variable that keeps you and your family from enjoying the water. While it may take a few extra steps to keep everyone safe, it’s possible to encourage pool safety for children with autism and still have a wonderful time. Employing a few simple precautions can help you forge wonderful splash-filled memories while ensuring your child is safe!
Better Outcomes with ABA Centers of America
ABA therapy offers parents and children with autism more oversight and techniques to navigate complex experiences like pool safety for children with autism. While ABA therapy doesn’t teach swimming, it can improve learning, attention, and behavior, enhancing daily outcomes for families experiencing neurodiversity.
ABA Centers of America knows keeping kids safe is essential to parents and caregivers with kids on the spectrum. Still, we know sometimes it takes a bit of extra work. If you suspect your child may need additional ABA support or an autism diagnosis, don’t hesitate to call us at 844-969-4222 or click here to learn more about how we support families with children on the spectrum.
Your child’s long-term dreams and goals are possible with established guidelines and compassionate care. You don’t have to navigate these complicated issues alone. ABA support is available.