First responders start drowning prevention and autism awareness in Arizona

Tucson, Ariz. — First responders in South Arizona are starting a campaign to prevent drowning as well as to raise autism awareness in the region.

August was declared drowning prevention month as back-to-school season starts— a time when distractions and lax rules around swimming pools are most common, making children more vulnerable to drowning.

It’s also declared as autism awareness month, as statistics show that drowning accounts for about 90 percent of the deaths of children with autism below 14 years of age from the years 2009 to 2011 alone.

Firefighters vs. Autism’s Justine Lewis, whose son was also diagnosed with autism, told:

“They’re the worst calls we go on, within our own community, the autism community. It’s the worst thing about the majority of drowning is that they are preventable.”

Firefighters are concerned that even if the children had swimming lessons, some of those with autism are in risk of running away, putting themselves in danger in the process.

The National Autism Association says that about 50 percent of children with autism are likely to attempt escape from a safe environment.

To help prevent this, Lewis suggests that the parents of children with autism should introduce their children around their neighborhoods, including the first responders, so others will be alarmed that something might be wrong if they see the child alone. Lewis told:

“At the end of the day, there’s really only so much that we can do, and that’s why it’s so important for us to call on our community. Make sure that they know about the situation.”

The Drowning Coalition of Arizona will be providing swimming lessons and other demonstrations at its water safety expo on Aug. 29 at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.

Source: Craig Reck: Tucson News Now : Drowning prevention, autism awareness in southern Arizona