After drownings of 2 children with autism, Orange County Fire Rescue reminds parents about water hazards

Research shows nearly half of children with autism are at risk for wandering away from a safe setting

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Fire Rescue reminded the public about the dangers surrounding bodies of water and the importance of being vigilant.

“The most, the most, the most important is active supervision always. Always make sure that you are actually and actively watching these children when they are around any type of water hazard,” Inez Pressler, assistant fire marshal for OCFR said. “It’s all types of water hazards, not just pools and lakes. Also, retention ponds, bathtubs, toilets, and know that children like water, you know it’s something fun. It’s affiliated with playing and having splashing fun, but it becomes a hazard when there’s not proper supervision and they don’t know how to swim,” Pressler said.

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The warning comes after 5-year-old Aaron Peña in Orange County, and 3-year-old Axel Caballero in Seminole County, both diagnosed with autism, were found unresponsive earlier this month in bodies of water.

“It’s heartbreaking. They’re young children’s families are devastated and it’s a good opportunity for us to get reminders out there and educate people on water safety and some of the resources that are available,” Pressler, who is a mother as well, said. “What are some of these precautions? Any doors any windows leading to these water areas make sure that they have locks that are high that can’t easily be reached; make sure we have an alarm or some kind of chime so when they leave through these doors or windows somebody can be alerted.”

Research by the National Autism Association showed that nearly half of children with autism are at risk for wandering away from a safe setting, making them vulnerable to dangerous situations like drowning and traffic incidents.

OCFR said learning CPR and taking a water safety program offered by the Children’s Safety Village organization are effective resources.

“Learn how to do CPR in the event that you know this child is missing. The first place we should be looking is to these water hazards,” she said.

So far in 2022, Orange County fire rescue responded to 34 drownings or near drowning incidents.

In 2021 OCFR said there were 13 drownings or near drownings of children and in 2021 they responded to 30 drownings or near drowning incidents.

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