Warmer weather ignites the territory of several outings including playground/park visits, swimming pools and backyard play dates to include water. While some of these activities may be risk free, several include bodies of water that could be a potentially dangerous situation for children and in particular those with Autism.
As a parent or caregiver of someone with Autism several questions may come to mind such as: When should my child be learning how to swim, what are some ways to teach water safety, and what are some resources that I can look up to gain water safety during outings. Here are four ways to encourage water safety and answer the questions above.
- Use visuals and social stories to explain water safety: Explaining outings to the child ahead of time and giving them details of how to behave around the water is a helpful way to prime your child on water safety and what you expect. When googling water social stories you can find several videos to show your child or you can create your own story explaining your outing and what you want the child to do.
- Practice being around water and safety precautions often. Practice makes perfect is a silly saying, but it will help make your outings near water much easier. The more you practice going to places with bodies of water and showing your child water safety, the more they will be able to replicate this behavior later on.
- Start swimming lessons early: If your child shows interest in water, starting swimming lessons will help them to be able to know what to do when they encounter water. This will create a relaxed relationship with water and will make both your child and you more confident in situations where there is water. Teaching coping strategies in water that may arise in a dangerous situation such as the child falling, large waves, etc will also help them gain confidence while swimming.
- Do your research ahead of time: There are several water based play areas where lifeguards and staff have been through training to aid those with disabilities. Doing your research ahead of time to find either a place with licensed staff or a private expert will help the initial process of water safety for you and your child and give you both peace of mind.