Childhood drowning is preventable. Here area few Y water safety tips to help keep your children safe in and around water:
- LEARN TO SWIM | The best thing anyone -- children AND adults -- can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
- NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED | Parents are the first line of defense in keeping kids safe in the water. Never leave children unattended near water, not even for a minute. If your child’s in the water, you should be too! Always assign a responsible adult as the designated Water Watcher who will keep a constant watch on any children in the water.
- READ ALL POSTED SIGNS | Follow posted safety rules and warnings. Teach kids that being safe in and around the water is a personal responsibility – yours and theirs.
- NEVER SWIM ALONE OR IN UNSUPERVISED PLACES | Teach your children to always ASK PERMISSION before they go near or into water and to swim with a buddy. Always assign a responsible adult as the designated Water Watcher.
- SPIT IT OUT | Teach kids not to drink the pool water. To prevent choking, never chew gum or eat while swimming, diving or playing in water.
- CHECK THE WATER DEPTH | The American Red Cross recommends 9 feet as a minimum depth for diving or jumping. If you or your family do not know how to swim or are weak swimmers, please stay in shallow water that is no more than waist deep on the smallest swimmer in your group.
- USE APPROVED SWIM DIAPERS | Regular baby diapers are made to absorb liquid and will only hold so much water before the absorbent material inside the diaper will explode and damage pool filtration systems.
- AVOID WATER WINGS | Do not use air-filled swimming aids (such as “water wings”) in place of life jackets or life preservers for children. Using air-filled swimming aids can give parents and children a false sense of security, which may increase the risk of drowning. These air-filled toys are not designed to be personal-flotation devices and can easily deflate if they become punctured or unplugged.
- Create layers of protection between the water and your children.
- Install alarms on doors and windows that lead to the pool.
- Build a non-climbable fence between the house and the pool.
- Use self-closing fence gates that open outwards with latches out of the child’s reach.
- Have rescue equipment mounted by the pool.
- Learn CPR.
- Talk to adults that are caring for your child around water.
- Enroll children in swim lessons.
Watching is the most important thing to remember. Never leave your child alone near a pool, spa, bathtub, toilet, bucket or any standing water in which a child’s nose or mouth may be submerged.
- Assign an adult Water Watcher who is committed to supervising the pool area.
- Have phone access near the water area.
- Wear personal floatation devices (PFDs) that are Coast Guard approved.
- Call 911.
- Throw! Don’t go. Throw rescue equipment to the victim.
- Begin CPR.
Drowning is the leading cause of death of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is estimated that 91% of all deaths for children with ASD between 2009-2011 were accidental drownings.
There are four reasons this happens:
- WANDERING | Roughly half of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.
- LACK OF GENERALIZATION | Even if a child with ASD learns how to swim, it is sometimes difficult for them to generalize these skills to other areas where they may not have been before, such as a nearby lake or river.
- LACK OF PERCEIVED DANGER | Many children with ASD do not realize danger when they encounter it. It's common with more severe ASD to have a lack of judgment, as well as intellectual impairments, thus increasing the risk for drowning.
- LACK OF AWARENESS & SERVICES | Many people don't understand the increased risk to drowning that ASD causes and are unaware that it is the leading cause of death in autism. Therefore, it's important that awareness programs be put in place to ensure the safety of children with ASD.
Here are some things you can do to help protect children with ASD:
- Put in place preventative measures for your home pool, like pool gates, covers, fencing, and alarms.
- Exposure to different beaches, pools, lakes or rivers that the child may have access to could potentially aid them in utilizing their swimming skills by learning to generalize the different bodies of water.
- Ensure all pool safety measures are in place and keep an eye out for wandering. Supervision around any body of water can help reduce drowning.
- Underestimate your child’s swimming ability. It's always a good idea to insist that your child wear a life jacket, just in case.
Sources: AquaMobile Swim School | Children's Therapy T.E.A.M. | National Autism Association
Life jackets are just as important as seat belts. If you don’t wear them, they won’t help you in an emergency! Individuals who don't know how to swim or are considered weak swimmers should wear a “Coast Guard Approved” life jacket when playing in or around the water.
How to Choose the Right Life Jacket
While boating, only 63% of 5-14 year-olds wear a personal floatation device (PFD), compared to 91% for children under age 5. EVERYONE on a boat should wear a PFD. A variety of types are available for different water sports, so check the manufacturer’s label to see the activities and conditions for which the PFD is appropriate. Have each family member try on their PFD before you buy it to make sure it fits properly and comfortably.
PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICES
- All non-swimmers should wear PFDs when they are near water.
- Each person on board any small craft or boat of open construction should wear a PFD.
- Choose and wear only those PFDs that bear the label “U.S. Coast Guard Approved.”
- Other floatation devices designed to serve as teaching aids are good for teaching situations and may be used to assist swimmers, but they should not be relied on as lifesaving devices.
- Anything that inflates can quickly deflate, causing you or your child to become distressed in the water. Please be aware of these false security items when swimming.
Sources: Center for Disease Control | YMCA Lifeguard Manual
Keeping kids safe around water requires a family commitment. Review the pledge below as a family and ask everyone to agree to follow the safety guidelines listed.
WE PLEDGE TO BE SAVE IN & AROUND WATER
As a family, we agree to do the following:
- Always make sure an adult actively watches children around water.
- Make sure an adult stays within arm’s reach of young children in the water.
- Swim near a lifeguard.
- Reach or throw, not go, to help a swimmer in trouble.
- Consider enrolling children in swim lessons to help them stay safe around water.
Children should only swim under adult supervision. Use the checklist below to understand your role in keeping kids safe when you are responsible for supervising them in the water.
I HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP KIDS SAFE IN & AROUND WATER
I agree to do the following:
- Actively watch children who are in or around water.
- Keep my eyes on the water.
- Avoid distractions like talking on the phone, socializing or reading while watching children.
- Keep a phone near water for emergencies.
- Remain by the water until relieved by a new Water Watcher.