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Summer and Pool Safety for Children with Autism

aba therapy and summer safety

Swimming is a favorite summer activity for many, but for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (or ASD), it presents several safety concerns. Parents and caregivers alike worry about their children’s well-being near bodies of water. While there are risks swimming at the pool or in the ocean, proactivity in teaching can help reduce them.

Teaching your child how to swim and practicing water safety is vital to reducing risk around bodies of water. In this blog, we’ll teach you several easy ways to keep your child safe in the water. 

Earlier the Better with Essential Speech and ABA Therapy

At Essential Speech and ABA Therapy, our focus on early intervention gives kids a headstart. Our beliefs are the same can be said for pool and swim safety education - the sooner, the better! Whether you are frequenting your neighborhood pool, or planning a trip to the beach, you should be proactive in teaching well before the event.

First, you can utilize social stories and picture cards to demonstrate appropriate behavior and practice different situations.

Essential Speech and ABA Therapy has a free social story on pool safety that you can download here. The U.S. Product Safety Commission also has a list of recommended water safety books on this website

Swim Lessons 

Signing up for swim lessons is one of the best ways to teach water safety. Many local organizations, like the YMCA, offer swimming lessons for children with autism. There are also swim schools that offer personalized lessons for your little one.

Additionally, the company Swim Angelfish has a YouTube channel with tips and strategies for teaching little ones how to swim. You can also check community swimming pools, high schools, and universities for a certified lifeguard, special education teacher, or experienced swimmer to assist with lessons.

According to the Red Cross, your child should learn five water safety skills to keep them safe in the pool. Look for a company or program that will help your child practice the following: 

  1. Step or jump into the water over your head.

  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.

  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.

  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit without stopping.

  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

Other Important Considerations

While proactive preparations are important, you still need to stay attentive whenever your child is near a pool or body of water.

If your child is drawn to water, take precautions to keep them away. If you have a pool, ensure it is gated and locked when not in use. Put locks or alarms on your windows and doors so your child doesn’t leave the house unsupervised. Most importantly, always keep your child in sight when near a body of water. 

Communicate Dangers

If you’re visiting friends or family, inform them of your child’s needs and brainstorm ways to keep them safe near the water. This may include a locked gate, inner tubes, floaties, and life jackets. Together, you and your loved ones should also make a plan for constant adult supervision when children are in the pool.

Assign Supervision

At parties or gatherings, assign a few adults to watch the pool. Have them trade roles every 15 - 30 minutes. Always remain vigilant, even when children are in shallow water or wearing life jackets. If the supervising adult isn’t a strong swimmer, make sure that the children remain within arm’s length. 

Clean Up

After swimming, remove any toys from the water and around the pool. Once you exit the area, ensure that the gate is locked. Most importantly, parents should always remain vigilant to prevent accidents, even when the child exits the pool.


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