Springtime is here and many families are taking to the outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather near local pools and lakes. While this idea is met with anticipation for most, as a parent to a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) it also means taking added precautions to ensure your child stays safe.

Water holds a special attraction for many children with autism. Unfortunately, when coupled with tendencies to wander (also called elopement), this draw can prove dangerous. According to a new study by the American Journal of Public Health, drowning remains the most common fatal injury among children with ASD.

Many local organizations offer one-on-one swim lessons for children with autism and special needs. While these lessons are strongly recommended, it is important to note that this skill alone does not mean your child is protected. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, MGA Home Healthcare offers 5 additional tips to help keep your child safe near water.

1 – Never leave your child unattended around water. This includes bathtubs, inflatable pools, fish ponds, swimming pools, beaches and lakes. Children can drown in less than 2 inches of water which means drowning can happen where you least expect it.

2 – If you own a pool, make sure it is fenced in and secured with a latch that is higher than your child’s reach. Check with your neighbors, friends and family to ensure similar precautions.

3 – Remove items from your pool that may interest your child when unoccupied such as toys, pool floats and floating chlorine holders.

4 – Place visual cues such as a STOP sign on your pool gate, windows or on any door within your home that leads outside. Add a chime or alarm to alert you when windows or doors are opened.

5 – Inform others such as neighbors, teachers, family members, caregivers, friends and even local police and fire departments of your child’s tendency to wander and their attraction to water when necessary.

It is important to remember that injuries can be preventable. It is never too early to begin teaching your child the water safety skills that can save their life.