Safety Around Water

The swimming pool is a great attraction for children. However, it also poses one of the biggest threats to children. 


3 out of 4 children on the autism spectrum ended up drowning when they wander off alone (Pool Dangers and Drowning Prevention – When It’s Not Swimming Time, 2022). 

Prevention Strategies

1. Fence up! 

  • Install a 4-feet high, four-sided fence that comes with a self-latching lock
  • Make sure it is non-climbable (remove any furniture or play items around the fence that can aid climbing)
  • Latch to be away from child’s reach 
  • Less than 4 inches of space between the slats of the fence

*It is recommended to have a system at home to prevent drowning when pool is not being used: locked gate, keys kept out of children’s reach, toys and climbable furniture kept away from fence at all times. 


2. Pool alarms or Pool Gate Alarms 

  • to detect and alert adults when someone enters the pool 


3. Swimming lessons 

  • start your child with swimming lessons as early as possible
  • little children as young as 1 year old are recommended to start their swimming lessons
  • for children with autism that tend to wander, they are encouraged to learn how to swim in wet clothes and with shoes 

Precautions for Drowning 

1. Assign a ‘water watcher’ 

  • main role is to keep an eye on all children swimming/playing in/near water 


2. CPR Training 

  • all parents, caregivers and pool owners should be equipped with CPR skills
  • swimming equipment at poolside: life preservers, life jackets


3. Tolerance 

  • build tolerance to wearing swimming attire, floats, life jackets 


4. Ask for permission 

  • teach children to seek permission for pool time from adults 


5. Floating device 

  • ensure your child swims with a floating device (e.g. life jacket, vest, floaties) 


6. Schedule 

  • have understanding on when they can go for a swim and when they can’t 

Use of Visuals

  1. Daily schedule and weekly calendar-indicating pool times
  2. Communication visuals at front door
  3. “Swimming Time” Social Story 

Ways to use Visuals: Preventative Strategy

1. Communicating with visuals 

  • communicating to your child in advance of their daily/weekly routine, noting when is their pool times, before they request for it (e.g.: “pool time is after homework time” or “we are going to the pool on Saturday”  while referring to the schedule) 


2. Frequent communication in advance 

  • communication should be done as frequently as possible to facilitate understanding 

Ways to use Visuals: Reactive Strategy

1. Verbal & Visual strategies 

  • when your child makes a request for swimming, pair your verbal response with visual (i.e. daily schedule or weekly calendar)
  • pairing of verbal and visual communication increases your child’s understanding and hopefully to elicit better compliance 


*However, using these visuals solely as a reactive strategy is recommended only if your child is able to accept “no”. 

Teaching Strategies to Prevent Drowning:

Your Turn

Check and assess your child’s ability to cope when you reject their request for pool time.


Download the visuals and implement both the preventative and reactive strategies with your child.


1. Pool Dangers and Drowning Prevention ― When It’s Not Swimming Time. (2022). Retrieved 1 January 2022, from