A Platte County YMCA aquatics director offered safety tips for parents of children with Autism

PLATTE CITY, Mo. - The drowning of a 5-year-old Cass County boy with Autism is a tragic reminder that drowning is the leading cause of death of children with Autism.

"When you look at the combined total of children with Autism who die, 80 percent of them drowned," explained Amanda Mitchell, Senior Aquatics Director at Platte County Community Center North.

Mitchell said that children with Autism are fascinated and intrigued by the reflection and movement of the water.

"And once they are intrigued by it, they are driven to find a way to get to it so they can explore it," she added.

Five-year-old Tony Eugene Cory-Ferguson drowned in a pond near his grandparent's house in Cass County near Garden City, Mo. To help reduce the risk of drowning, Mitchell recommended that parents enroll their children with Autism in special swim classes.

"This is the second year we've had swim lessons specifically for children with Autism," she added.

"We have 26 children at the Platte County Community Center on Monday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and there are special classes at YMCAs throughout the the greater Kansas City area," she said.

Each child with Autism is paired with a swim instructor for one-on-one lessons that focus on basic water safety training and basic swimming skills based on the child's individual ability and goals.

Mitchell also recommended that parents of children with Autism talk with their neighbors and schools and community leaders to make sure everything possible is being done so that children with Autism are safe.

To find out about the one-on-one swim classes in your area for children with Autism visit the Greater YMCA home page at http://www.kansascityymca.org/programs or the Autism Society of the Heartland home page at http://www.asaheartland.org/contact.php.

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