Drowning is the leading cause of preventable death for children with autism. It is a mystery what draws these kids to water, but it is a fact that it can often be deadly. The best form of prevention is
Fifteen-year-old Jarrett Lyon has autism. His mother, Kara Lyon, says he has been drawn to water since he was a baby. "A lot of kids on the autism spectrum are fascinated and really almost obsessed with water, it draws them in," says Lyon.
Many of us are fascinated, even comforted by the sound, sight and feel of water. In children with autism, the attraction goes deeper. Court Allred is a licensed clinical social worker with the University of Utah's Autism Spectrum Disorder Cinic. "Being cocooned in the water is a fascinating idea to them, being under it and closing out all the sounds, all the demands from other people, they can just kind of block it all out," he said.
Most kids with autism also block out the fear that others might naturally have of putting their head underwater. "They don't have any comprehension of fear or that water is dangerous. They have no danger anxiety," Lyon said. Allred agrees. "They don't know it's going to be life-threatening."
"And so, if they don't know how to be safe around the water, it's a great hazard for them," Lyon added. It's hazardous and even deadly for kids like 5-year-old Michael Bolden of Hillsborough County, Florida. The autistic boy wandered into a pond in the middle of a farmers market last month and drowned.
"We do find that if there is a lethal outcome to a wandering event, 90 percent of the time it's going to be drowning," Allred said. Fear of losing her son, Jarrett, to drowning drove Lyon, a lifelong swimmer and lifeguard, to develop her own unique way of teaching children with autism water safety.
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