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 the 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 need to put actionable ways to prevent accidental drowning in this specific population at the top of their to-do list.
Providing accessible water safety courses and swimming lessons specifically tailored to those with autism would be cost-effective to implement and have almost immediate impact. Such programming would have the double bonus of providing both safety and recreational benefits for autism families.
Education and awareness of water-danger risks targeted at the caregivers for this population should also be a priority. Providing funds to help families and schools put physical safety measures in place – gates and specialized locks, for example – would also be a help.
But part of the conversation also has to be about the lack of adequate supports for families caring for autistic children experienced clear across the country.
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!