Children with Autism Drown More Often

young boy in water

by Teresa Crane | Thursday, Nov 19, 2020

Annually, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown before their fifth birthday, according to Florida Health. The risk of drowning for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be as high as ten times greater than other children. Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (FAU CARD) provides awareness of risks for children on the spectrum and a plan to help families keep their child safe.

“We read, with great sadness, too often about the drowning of a child with autism,” said Jack Scott , Ph.D., BCBA-D, Executive Director of FAU CARD. “Many children with autism tend to wander which opens the door to drowning.”

It is known that 50% of children with autism wander away from home or school. FAU CARD works with parents of children with ASD to develop an emergency plan to cope with elopement. The Center advises parents to call 911 immediately prepared to share ideas of where their child might wander and a photo for identification, as well as locations of nearby bodies of water.

According to the Autism Society of Florida , drowning is the #1 cause of death in autism and Florida leads the way in child drownings resulting in death. FAU CARD promotes awareness by sharing pool safety measures, such as fenced pools with self-latching and self-locking child-proof gates, drain covers, and dedicated adult “water watchers”. CARD also serves to point parents in the direction of helpful agencies like the US Coast Guard with a list of approved flotation devices and the Red Cross which offers a Water Safety class for supervising adults.

“Becoming fully informed of the risks is the first step in keeping a child with autism safe,” said Scott. “CARD is here to help families with clinical support specialists who will place our advice in the context of the individual child and family at no cost.”

FAU CARD offers expert consulting, training and support at no charge. These services extend to all people across all race, ethnic, and gender groups with autism and related disabilities, as well as their families, employers, and the professionals and community and governmental agencies serving them. The Center’s service area encompasses five Florida counties: Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie. You may request CARD service here.


FAU CARD is a community-based program providing assistance and supports to people with autism spectrum disorder and related disabilities, their families, the professionals serving them, employers and the community. FAU CARD was established and funded by the Florida Legislature through a grant from the Florida Department of Education to provide free services and supports to eligible constituents throughout five-county service areas: Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie.