Children with autism are naturally drawn to water, and most don't understand the dangers

The tragic drowning of a 5-year-old boy with autism is shining a light on why children with autism need constant supervision.
Investigators say Michael Bolden's father wasn’t watching him closely enough Sunday at a Plant City farmers market. The boy wandered off and was found dead in a murky pond.
At this point, law enforcement says no charges will be filed.
"The flea market is setup with booths and tons and tons of watermelons and produce, so there's a lot of places for a small 5-year-old to hide," said Major Bob Ura with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Bolden has severe autism and can only speak in "baby talk," according to authorities. It appears no one saw him enter the small pond.
"We were very, very upset," said Mindy Stevens, assistant director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) at the University of South Florida.
For parents with an autistic child, CARD is a must-know resource.
"You can lose a child in 20 seconds. They can get away from you, and that's all it takes," she said.
It turns out drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism because they are naturally drawn to water.
Children with autism also don't understand the dangers, whether it be the depth, temperature, or steep slope.
Perhaps the worst part: At least half of children with autism are non-verbal, meaning they can't call for help.
"What we tell caregivers is to educate yourself to make sure that at no time should your child not be supervised if they're around any bodies of water," Stevens said.
CARD is now handing out boxes filled with tips and tools specifically to prevent drownings involving kids with autism.
Families with children with autism can reach CARD for help at or at 800-333-4530.
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