Children with autism from across the metro area learning swim safety skills at a week-long summer camp. 

Organizers say the kids have a lot of fun, but the lessons they learn could one day save a life. They say one in four children with autism will wander away from their home or school, and many of them will head to the water.

“To know your child is not safe is one of the scariest things,” Camp Director Tara Warwick said. “So, giving that to families, the feeling of safety, and the other things is, you want your kids to be happy. You want them to enjoy leisure activities and a lot of these families don’t have that opportunity.”

Campers practice basic swimming skills like floating and getting to the edge of the pool, as well as how to get help.

“What we are working on is mostly survival safety skills to prevent and hopefully somebody who might find themselves in a dangerous situation would not with these skills,” iCanSwim Instructor L.J. Gass said.

Autism Oklahoma says parents can take a few safety steps with children around water that could prevent a tragedy:

  • Secure your home by installing or implementing home safeguards like locks or security alarms.
  • Identify triggers like bright lights or noises. that may make your child leave the house.
  • Have a bracelet or a shoe tag that can be used to identify your child.
  • Have a family emergency plan.
  • Teach swim safety skills through swim lessons.

“We also know if it’s not fun, kids won’t want to come back, and every day kids are ready to come,” Warwick said. “Parents are saying they are waking up in the morning wanting to put their swimsuit on.”