Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drowning; leading cause of injury-related death in children with autism

I will never forget the day Nicky was walking back and forth between the pool and the spa and he fell in. He was not quite two and he walked back and forth, back and forth looking at the water, acting like he wanted to touch it, but not getting in. Seated 4 feet from him, I watched him go to the edge of the pool bend over, stare at the water, and then turn around and do the same thing on the edge of the spa. Back and forth he went for nearly an hour. Then on one trip to the edge of the spa he leaned just a little too far over the water and fell head over heals into the jacuzzi. I was right there, I walked right over to him and what I saw shocked me. Nicky, eyes wide open, was just floating to the bottom of a step in the spa. In this case the bottom was only about 1.5 feet but he did nothing he just sank, stared up at the sky through the water and didn't move. I jumped in pulled him out. He coughed and was fine. I was clearly more shaken than he was.

I understood at that moment why people say drowning is silent. There was no flapping of the arms, no struggle to stay above water just a silent trip to the bottom, where he would have quietly drown.

Nicky loves the water, and he thinks he is a better swimmer than he really is. He has no fear of the water and his favorite place to be is always in the deepest water. I am always on high alert and I've always felt our kids were at higher risk. When I saw this article I was blown away to see that drowning was the top accidental cause of death for children with autism, but I was not surprised.

In celebration of Autism Awareness month, please read this, and please pass it along.

The Risk of Drowning in Children with Autism
Too often children with autism who wander are attracted to water. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children with autism.
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  1. Thanks for posting this, Donna. I started teaching my child to swim when he was 2 months old and didn't stop these weekly lessons until he was a strong swimmer. In our community, we're surrounded by unpredictable, moving water. He has no fear of real danger, including water danger. And now with seizures, he must wear a PFD even though he is a strong swimmer. Still, I'm concerned. We all can fail at constant diligence and I know I'm not an exception to this. Tamera

  2. Booga loves to swim, he is an excellent swimmer and I think that the reason that they are attracted to the water is because they are touched by it and surrounded by it and can feel the pressure of it but it's not something that is invasive to them. It engulfs them but doesn't secure them. Not like a hug. And it's not a human touch which is so often accompanied by a judgment or a restraint. And water has a rhythm to it, it has a consistency to it that attracts autism. It's like a repeating verse in a song.
    And you're right, they will allow themselves to fall to the bottom and stare straight up because it's so comfortable in there. There's no noise to drive them crazy and yet they are being surrounded and hugged and can feel that weight and watch the waves and it's viscous. To them it's a better world.

  3. Just want everyone to know that the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena runs a special needs swim team (the Stingrays) to encourage our kids to become stronger, better swimmers. Program is very reasonable. They also offer scholarships for kids with special needs who need swim lessons. All kids need to learn to swim, especially here in So Cal.

  4. Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for first aid for a heart attack and your post looks very interesting for me.

  5. i have never seen anyone drowning but would assume that flapping of arms and call s for help would make it clear the person was drowning