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January 2019

Autism and Swimming: What should I worry about?

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All kids love the water, but for some…we need to be more diligent.

All kids love to swim, the pool and beach are two of my kids favorite places to be. It wouldn’t be a weekend if my boys were swimming and splashing. I taught my boys from infancy how to float on their backs, blow bubbles, and doggie paddle to the wall for safety. All babies can learn, all kids should and can learn. Don’t let a swim coach deviate your goals of having a happy, healthy and safe swimmer…no matter what your child’s prognosis! 

Here are some scary facts to consider:

Columbia University looked at more than 39 million death records over a 16-year period to determine the relationship between autism and death by injury. Here is a link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28323463

Over all, individuals with autism died on average almost 36 years younger than the general population. Almost 28 percent died prematurely by injury, which includes complications from epileptic seizures and suicide (both epilepsy and depression are common in this population).

According to the study, individuals with autism also die by accidental injury at a rate three times higher than the general population. The rate was particularly high for children younger than 15 years of age.

According to researchers, almost half (46 percent) of unintentional injury deaths for children with autism occurred by drowning – and the “danger years” are between ages five to seven.

Children with autism drown 160 times more frequently than their neurotypical peers.

Several earlier studies show similar patterns of a significantly increased risk for accidental drowning for those with developmental disabilities, including autism, though the range of risk varies widely.

The good news is that something can be done. These are preventable deaths. Public health officials have been enacting ways to prevent accidental drowning in this specific population. There are Drowning Prevention Task forces throughout LA, OC and SD counties. Look up your local chapter!

Providing accessible water safety courses and swimming lessons specifically tailored to those with autism are cost-effective to implement and have almost immediate impact. Such programming have the double bonus of providing both safety and recreational benefits for autism families. Some counties offer scholarships and free tuition based on need funds. There are  swim schools who take Charter School funds to help with costs. Ask around!

This is why Special Fishies was created. We want to get the word out that these kids can learn water safety and find freedom in the water! We want to educate every coach, parent and caregiver on techniques and tools that we use everyday and get results with. Check out our YouTube videos to see the joy the water brings to our fishies, and we’ll be posting some educational videos soon!

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Please spread the word