(KIAH) -Experts said children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, are at a much greater risk of drowning than their peers. The danger has led to the growth of programs teaching life-saving skills to tackle the problem.
Seven-year-old Keidis loves his Monday swimming lesson. And those lessons are even more important because he has ASD, which puts him in a high-risk category.
“He tends to not be aware of the danger. He would just walk from the side of the pool onto the top of the water, and he’d be under,” said Jo Renshaw, mother of Keidis.
Drowning is among the leading causes of death of individuals with autism. According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning accounts for 91% of deaths reported in children with ASD 14 years old and younger.
Swimming has additional benefits for children on the spectrum. Not only is it a life saving skill, but it also helps their communication.
“The literature tells us that the water and swimming and aquatics increases communication for those that have communication challenges, decreases behaviors of concern, helps with sensory challenges,” said Erika Gleeson, Autism Swim, Australia.
The ASD Foundation says swimming gives children on the spectrum a social outlet, on top of improving their speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing. They said once under water, the child is alone and doesn’t have to be anxious about someone passing them the ball or be responsible for the success of the team.
That’s why for Keidis, Monday is his happy day.
“He enjoys having quite a strict routine, so every time he wakes up on Monday morning, he’s like; ‘It’s Monday, I have swimming lessons today,” said his mom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.