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Water Safety Tips for Children with Special Abilities

Swim instructor teaching a swimming lesson

At British Swim School, we believe that water safety is the most important reason for learning how to swim. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, and tragically, the risk of drowning is much higher for children with special abilities, specifically those with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Continue reading to learn more about ASD, as well as the need for a multi-layered water safety strategy to reduce the risks of drowning.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. To learn more about Autism, visit

Drowning Risks

Water holds an appeal for many individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but this fascination can be dangerous. According to the National Autism Association, 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning, making water safety that much more important!

Tragically, drowning is among the leading causes of death for individuals with ASD. According to the National Autism Association, the risk of death by drowning is twice as high for children with ASD than for the general population. Many factors contribute to these devastating statistics, including the following common behavioral characteristics:

  • Limited or non-verbal communication skills.
  • Impulsivity (acting without thinking).
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected.
  • Tendency to wander or bolt from a safe, supervised place.
  • Commonly drawn to water, often with an inability to understand the dangers associated with it.

Drowning Prevention

A combination of water safety precautions and water safety education can significantly reduce the risk of drowning. Continue reading for water safety tips that every caregiver should keep in mind!

  • Remain attentive to interest or frequent draw to the water.
  • Teach the importance of water safety early and often! Visual and social stories can be an effective way to maximize retention.
  • Sign up for specialized swimming lessons designed for individuals with special abilities.
  • Emphasize the dangers of water to help prevent a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Notify your neighbors so they are aware of a tendency to wander and act as a second set of eyes in your community.
  • Maintain constant visual contact in and around the water.
  • Safeguard home swimming pools with a four-sided isolation fence with self-closing and self-latching gates.

British Swim School’s Special Abilities Program

We are passionate about teaching water survival skills to individuals of every age and ability, and our aquatics program was initially designed with special abilities in mind back in 1981! 

Our Special Abilities program takes our traditional British Swim School methods and incorporates them for any swimmer to feel comfortable and safe in the water. We work one-on-one with each student and tailor their learning experiences to align with their abilities and learning style, ultimately aiming to assimilate into the traditional program when they are ready.

If you have a child or loved one with a special ability, we would love to discuss your water safety needs and how we can help! Our Special Abilities program is available at select locations across the US and Canada. Contact your local British Swim School today for more information!

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