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Water Safety & Autistic Kids The Hidden Danger of Drowning

Écrit par : HiViz Swimwear



Temps de lecture 8 min

As a mother of Autistic children, I know firsthand the unique challenges that come with ensuring their safety, especially because one tends to wander. Today, I want to shed light on a critical issue that is not well known and often goes overlooked: the significantly increased risk of drowning among Autistic children.

Autistic children are drawn to water for various reasons that make it irresistibly captivating:

  • Its sensory appeal

  • Therapeutic Properties

  • Predictability

  • Visual fascination

If I’m being honest, just writing those things makes me want to head straight to the beach!

However, this natural draw to water can pose serious risks, especially considering that Autistic children are four times more likely to wander than non-Autisitic children.

Elopement, or wandering from safe environments, is a significant concern for Autistic children. Their fascination with water, coupled with a tendency to wander, increases the likelihood of accidental drownings. It's crucial for parents and caregivers to implement strategies to prevent elopement, where possible, such as securing doors and windows, installing alarms, and utilizing tracking devices.

Sadly, these accidents can occur anywhere, even during family outings where bodies of water are in close proximity; a friend experienced this unimaginable and devastating reality in our community just a couple years ago, and another family in our state did as well, just this past fall. As a mom of a wanderer, the fear is debilitating when heading to the park on the river’s edge, the playground by the pond, someone's house with a pool or pod, or the beach for a day. The one thing that has eased my anxiety is dressing my child in fluorescent colors to help me quickly spot him as I keep an uninterrupted, watchful eye. Because I know the data, I know the statistics, and I know that drowning happens to GOOD parents. Parents who are diligently watching. Parents who do everything in the world to keep their kids safe. But drowning doesn't discriminate. Having a tool like neon's visibility in my supervision box makes a tremendous difference and brings me peace of mind. 

What to do if your Autistic child goes missing?


Immediately head to the closest water risk as you call 911. Always, always, always check the water first. Always.

Alarming Statistics on Autistic Drownings

The statistics reveal alarming truths and underscore the importance of spreading awareness on this topic.

41.5 minutes on average is how long an Autistic child goes missing if they elope.

A staggering 91% of deaths in Autistic children aged 14 or younger are due to drowning. There is speculation that this number may be even higher because of the high drowning rate for ages 1-4 and the fact that many of these children are too young for a diagnosis and could very well have been undiagnosed Autistic.

Autistic children are 160 times more likely to drown (fatal and non-fatal) than their neurotypical peers, highlighting the urgent need for heightened awareness and proactive safety measures.

Also important to note: In the comprehensive drowning statistics, it has been demonstrated that males are about twice as likely to drown as females.

ISR Swim Instructor in HiViz  womens neon rash guard instructing autistic preschooler wearing HiViz neon swimwear on life-saving swim-float-swim skills.

How can we teach our Autistic children about water safety, when communication can often be a challenge? It's essential to tailor your approach to their unique needs and preferences. Here are some tips that may help:

Use Visual Aids

Visual schedules, social stories, and picture cards can help convey important safety information in a clear and accessible way.

Role-Play Scenarios

Practice water safety scenarios through role-play or interactive games to help your child understand appropriate behaviors around water.

Reinforce Boundaries 

Establish clear rules and boundaries regarding water safety and consistently reinforce them.

Utilize Sensory-Friendly Resources

Explore sensory-friendly water safety materials, such as videos or books, that cater to your child's sensory sensitivities and preferences.

Encourage Self-Advocacy

Empower your child to recognize and communicate their own needs and boundaries in water-related situations and provide them with strategies for seeking help if necessary.

Talk with your child about right and wrong when it comes to water safety rules. 

Make comparisons to dangers they may already understand. We have also found that explaining the why and severity of the risk to the degree capable of understanding has been helpful.

If communication comprehension is not achievable right now, add additional layers of protection wherever possible.

A specific note for parents who have an Autistic child or children that fit the PDA profile. 

As you know, having this profile of Autism comes with a very unique set of nervous-system-triggered challenges to work around, and telling your child not to go near or enter the water without an adult could very likely increase the likelihood of them doing exactly this. 

In our experiences, we have very direct, honest, respectful conversations with our PDA kids about the dangers and ask them to help plan the family rules around water and what should and shouldn’t be done. 

Giving them this equality and autonomy has helped us build a foundation for water safety in our households. 

Additionally, PDA kids may struggle more than non-PDA Autistics when it comes to participation in swim lessons with the level of being told what to do. We have had the best success with 1:1 lessons where a skilled instructor can adapt both to the particular sensory needs of their neurobiology and their need for decision-making and autonomy.

@hivizswim 𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗸𝗶𝗱𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝟭𝟲𝟬𝘅 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗿𝗼𝘄𝗻 due to a strong draw to water and tendency to wander. In fact, 𝟵𝟭% 𝗼𝗳 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗻 𝟭𝟰 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗱𝘂𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗿𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴. This information is 𝘚𝘖 𝘐𝘔𝘗𝘖𝘙𝘛𝘈𝘕𝘛 for parents, families, and caregivers to know. ⁣ ⁣ If all other barriers fail, swimming competency can save lives. ⁣ ⁣ For kids who are wanderers we highly recommend, from our own personal experiences, our neon rash guards. The visibility they provide, in all environments, helps improve your supervision capabilities and can help you more quickly locate your child if they have run off. ⁣ ⁣ Share this with any and all families you know who have Autistic kids. Education is the first step in drowning prevention. ⁣ ⁣ #neonswim #autismacceptancemonth ♬ Love Of My Life - Metrow Ar
@hivizswimDrowning is a significant risk for Autistic children. Most families are unaware of the increased risk and therefore the need for protective barriers. Share this message. Education is the first step in drowning prevention. Remember, drowning can happen to anyone. Tomorrow is always a gift 🦋 ♾️♥️💛💚💙💜 #autismacceptance #drowningprevetion #swimsafety #hivizswimwear ♬ Mia - Yailin La Mas Viral

Water Safety Layers of Protection

When it comes to water safety, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) emphasizes the importance of implementing multiple layers of protection, known as the "5 Layers." 

Constant Supervision:

Assign a designated water watcher who remains vigilant and focused solely on supervising children near water at all times. For an extra layer of protection, neon swimwear allows the water watcher to easily visualize a child, even underwater. I can’t stress enough how much peace of mind dressing my wanderer in neon has given me and not just around water. I say that from one mother to another; it’s not even about selling our neon rash guards.

Barriers to Entry:

Install physical barriers, such as fences with self-closing and self-latching gates, to prevent unsupervised access to pools, ponds, or other bodies of water. Having barriers to exit a space when there is a water risk nearby is also a great idea. Whether that be a lock out of reach or a door alarm system that will notify you when that door is unexpectedly opened. We are huge fans of Life Saver Pool Fence and they are also huge advocates in the water safety world. 

Monitor any paths to open water or sources of water with digital cameras that will alert you to people or movement.

Swimming Competency:

When all other barriers fail, swimming competency is the one last thing that can save your child’s life. Teach your child age-appropriate self-rescue water safety skills, such as floating and treading water. If you have other children, speak with all your children about what to do if they find their sibling, or another person, in distress in the water: do not go in, call for help, and if you throw something in make sure it is tied off and you are not holding the other end at risk to be pulled in. Ensure they know how to call for help in an emergency.


Use age-appropriate language and visuals to educate your child about the dangers of water and the importance of following safety rules.

CPR training: 

Learn CPR and basic first aid techniques to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a water-related emergency.

USCG-Approved Life Vests

Make sure that you have, and your children wear age and activity appropriate life vests that meet your child’s particular sensory needs. USCG-approved live vests only. And these flotation devices should NEVER be used in place of being in the water and/or within arm’s reach of your child at all times, particularly if they do not possess life-saving swimming skills.

By prioritizing education, water safety, and implementing tailored strategies to address the specific needs of Autistic children, we can work together to mitigate the risks and ensure that every child can enjoy the wonders of water safely. Education is the first line of defense against childhood drowning. Together, we can make a difference and help eradicate Autistic childhood drowning.

Lastly, please spread the word. Share this information with other families who have Autistic kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews.

From our neurodivergent mama’s and our neurodivergent families, be seen, be safe.

Education is the first step in drowning prevention. Remember, drowning can happen to anyone. Tomorrow is always a gift.

Why You Should Have Neon Swimwear for Your Autistic Kids

Neon swimwear and high-visibility neon rash guards offer a practical solution for watching your quick-wandering Autistic child in various aquatic settings such as the beach, lake, pool, splash pad, or any area in close proximity to water. The vibrant neon colors stand out against the water's surface, the beach, and the crowd, making it easier to visually track your child's movements, even from a distance. Whether they're darting across the sand or splashing in the shallow end of the pool, the bright hues of their swimwear serve as a beacon amidst the bustling activity of water play areas.

This increased visibility provides reassurance for parents and caregivers and enhances safety by ensuring that your child remains within sight at all times, minimizing the risk of accidental wandering and promoting peace of mind during aquatic adventures. In fact, we dress our kids in neon everywhere we go because, simply put, neon makes them the most visible they can be in every environment. You also cannot beat the superior sun protection of our UPF 50+ neon rash guards and all that greasy, sticky, sunblocking you won’t have to worry about! 

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