Ways to avoid water tragedies | #specialneeds | #kids


In the warm weather months, children are naturally attracted to the cool and alluring appeal of water. Children with autism, in particular, find refuge in the sensory experience water provides. As a pediatrician and mother of an autistic son, I believe health care professionals can save a life by adjusting some of our anticipatory guidance to families, particularly when addressing the issues of water safety and elopement, which would be when a person wanders away without notifying someone.

All children with autism should be enrolled in a swim program. This is not only essential to their lifelong well-being but also to their safety. The YMCA and other local programs have a variety of programs designed to teach special needs children how to swim. Also, it is important for all families living with an autistic family member to discuss elopement risks with their health care provider. This discussion can include a plan that addresses a list of steps to take in case of an elopement. Informing neighbors of the child’s needs can help the community be on the lookout should the need arise.

The National Autism Association has a free safety box that parents can order that includes an elopement checklist and sample forms that can be given to first responders and law enforcement. Many local police departments also offer free child location transmitters that can be worn on the child’s wrist or ankle and used to help locate a child in the case of an elopement. In Albany County, this information is available by visiting projectlifesaver@albanycountyny.gov.

Such basic precautions could avert a tragedy and a lifetime of regret for families with autistic children.

Dr. Carrin Schottler-Thal

Albany

Director, Autism Medical Home, Albany Med Health System




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