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Drowning is too common for kids with special needs, experts say

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 07:35:41-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — 8-year-old Jacob Davis drowned in the pool behind his home late Saturday evening, according to police.

The young boy had autism.

Experts like Jennifer Strobel, Executive Director of Families for Effective Autism Treatment, said Monday that drowning is much too common for children with special needs.

"Our kids are very attracted to the water," Strobel says. "The sensory feeling that they have in water."

The National Autism Foundation found that between 2009 and 2011 91% of deaths involving kids with autism under the age of 14 were caused by accidental drowning.

They also found that 32% of parents of children with autism reported a close call for their child drowning.

Strobel says much of the issue is that children will wander away on their own.

"Always look to the body of water first," she says, "because that's where they tend to go."

Kirsten Eber, owner of Swimming in the Sun, says teaching a child to swim can be the key to survival if they fall into a pool alone.

"It's a lot of work," she says. "It's more than learning one or two skills. It's a commitment."

Eber says children with autism can be taught to swim the same as any other child, but it takes breaking down skills like breathing, kicking, grabbing the wall, and lifting themselves out.

"You really need patience to get their attention back, repeat a lot, kindness, calmness," she says.

Swimming in the Sun is one of a few swimming services in Las Vegas that provide specialized education for children with special needs.

Aquatic Life, Water Wings Swim School and Safesplash Swim School also provide specialized services.