Surviving the Spectrum
Why we need Surviving the Spectrum?
• 91% of deaths in children with Autism are caused by unintentional drowning.
• 73.9% of fatal drownings in autism occur during periods of wandering/elopement
• Most often occur within 270 M (885 ft) from home
• Autistic Children (under the age of 14) are 160 times more likely to drown, nonfatally and fatally, than their neurotypical peers.
• Children on the spectrum have a natural affinity for water due to its sensory stimulating effects.
• Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 years old.
– Average age of Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis 4 years 4 mos.
– Due to the age of diagnosis, the prevalence of drowning in autistic children could be grossly underestimated.
Why do fatal drownings in Autism still occurs?
• Awareness is not widespread, especially to those at highest risk
• Quality, consistent survival swim and water safety lessons are expensive
– Especially for families with multiple children
• Difficulty of locating resources such as instructor equipped to provide instruction to children on the spectrum.
– Survival Swim lessons help the child with ASD prepare for UNEXPECTED exposure to water whereas typical swim lesson focus on “water fun”
• Currently, therapy programs design plans for elopement but oversight is common in the area of safety skills
– Does not include drowning prevention for child nor parent training
How can Surviving the Spectrum help?
• We can provide educational materials and resources specific to the needs of Autism
• Visual Cues
• Children on the Spectrum respond well to visual cues, even if nonverbal or limited verbal communication ability
• Physical Barriers
• i.e. Door locks, alarms, fences
• Tracking Devices
• Enables Tracking during periods of elopement
• Water Safety & Survival Swim Training
– Provide scholarships for children with Autism
I am Heather McCrackin, a registered nurse, and Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) Student.
As a mother of a child with Autism, and friend of a mother who lost her son to drowning, I knew
it was important to protect my child from drowning. However, I struggled to find resources and
instructors to accommodate her needs. After spending a wealth of time searching, I was
successful in finding the resources and instructors she needed. After experiencing this
frustrating search personally, I knew I needed to find a way to help other families of children
with Autism protect their children.
As a part of my doctoral program requirements, I completed a project researching and
implementing drowning prevention in Autism. Through this journey I found Swim Safe Forever
to be an organization that aligned with my purpose and provided the opportunity to continue
the work I had started and even expand to help families across the U.S.