Children with autism 160 times more likely than peers to drown; local nonprofit trying to change that statistic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.Great Strides for Children, a local nonprofit that helps improve the quality of life of children with special needs, is hoping to lower the risk of drownings among children with autism.

Children with autism spectrum disorder are 160 times more likely to experience non-fatal and fatal drowning than their peers, according to the Red Cross.

The nonprofit is building 300 Drowning Prevention Safety Kits that will go to children who are younger than 12 that have autism.

Starting on Monday, families can pick up a free kit at any Great Strides location.

The executive director of Great Strides Rehabilitation, John Edenfield, said teens with special needs will help build each kit.

“Inside the kit are three things, an informational sheet that parents can learn what they can do around their home to help prevent drowning,” Edenfield said. “The water watcher card an adult will wear to designate someone as the supervising adult when children are around water, and then the third thing in the kit are door alarms.”

Edenfield said he knows personally how devastating drownings are because he works with children and families every day who have been impacted by tragic events.

“We were touched by several families of children who came to our center who came to unfortunate incidents where maybe the mother went to draw a bath for the child and in a matter of a few minutes that child was able to get out of the house and drown in a pond or drown in a pool,” Edenfield said.

These devastating stories are the inspiration behind these drowning prevention kits.

“Life jackets won’t be included in the drowning prevention kit but if you do need one, you can order one through the lifejacket loaner program,” he said. “All you have to do is call Great Strides. If there’s one thing we can do to prevent one death…we decided that we wanted to do it.”

For more information on the kits, you can visit the nonprofit’s website.

About the Authors:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.