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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

Prevention Tools
• 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

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My Story

I am Dr. Heather McCrackin, a Nurse Practitioner, and graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston's Doctorate of Nursing Program.


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.

During my doctoral education, I completed research to implemented drowning prevention education for those in the autism community. I created ADPRK   (or "ad-park" as we pronounce it), an Autism Drowning Resource Prevention Kit   , and worked with a local autism therapy center to educate clinicians and parents of drowning risk, and more importantly, the resources available to eliminate drowning as the number one cause of death in children on the spectrum.

Through this journey I found Swim Safe Forever to be an organization that aligned with my purpose. Surviving The Spectrum   gives 100% of the donations received for scholarships to children with autism and other special needs. Swim Safe Forever supported the founding of Surviving The Spectrum   , which provides the opportunity to continue the work I started during my education while expanding efforts to help families across the United States.

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I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.

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