AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Up to 90 percent of wandering-related deaths involving children with autism are due to drownings, according to the National Autism Association. Subway and a few local organizations are looking to change that statistic.
The restaurant chain along with Easterseals of South Carolina held their inaugural swim day for children with autism on Saturday, June 29 at the Aiken Family YMCA. More than 18 kids and adults participated and learned basic swimming skills.
“Enjoying the water is something that every child should have the opportunity to participate in safely,” said Jeff Cope, Board Chairman for local Subway restaurants in the Augusta market. “When we learned of the potential to save lives that this program offered, along with the added benefit of creating a day of fun for these kids, this was an obvious choice.”
“Safety is always our number one priority with autistic children, particularly where water is concerned,” said Mary Margaret Crews of Easterseals of SC. “We are thrilled to be partnering with both the Aiken Family YMCA and Subway® Restaurants for the opportunity to educate not only the children but their entire families on water safety practices and enjoyment.”
The National Autism Association states nearly half of all children with autism are prone to wandering, also known as eloping or bolting, from adult supervision and going to an object of fascination, such as water.
“One of the key components is reach, throw, and do go. Making sure that they are not getting into the water if someone needs help. Showing them ways that they can lay down, reach a pool noodle to help someone get to where they are going,” Aquatics/Sports Director at Aiken Family YMCA Jessica Bacon added.
Wandering prevention and response tips are available at nationalautismassociation.org/wandering-quick-tips/.