‘You can never start too early’: First Coast YMCA talks swim safety and drowning prevention

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As the weather heats up and summer approaches quickly, a local fitness center is spreading awareness about the importance of swim safety.

STORY: Judge blocks DeSantis’ redistricting plan; state appeals

This education is critical for families or caretakers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) -- where wandering is common.

According to the Autism Society of Florida, kids on the autism spectrum are 160 times more likely to experience nonfatal and fatal drowning than their neurotypical peers.

Action News Jax reported about an autistic 11-year-old child who drowned on May 7 in a neighborhood pool on Dunn avenue.

JSO said the child was found unconscious in a pool after playing in the park behind the pool area with family members.

RELATED: 11-year-old autistic boy drowns on Dunn Avenue

Across the state, groups hold campaigns, classes and stress other resources that can assist with drowning prevention.

Tim Burrows is the Vice President of Operations for the First Coast YMCA. He emphasized the importance of swim safety for all ages.

“You can never start too early,” Burrows said. “We start as early as six months here at the YMCA with our parent-child lessons. We have the little babies all the way up to the adults who need to swim instructions and swim guidance.”

Burrows said it’s important to create a safe and fun space where people of all ages can thrive in any aquatic setting.

“There’s a lot of water in Jacksonville,” Burrows said. “The best thing about it is getting them involved early.”

STORY: 3 arrests made in connection to illegal street racing in Jacksonville

Burrows said that across the YMCA more lifeguards and swim instructors are needed so more people can have the opportunity to learn how to swim. That includes one-on-one lessons and small group instruction for children with ASD.

“It’s just unfortunate when you turn on the news and then see another child or even adult has drowned,” Burrows said.

The First Coast YMCA provides extensive education through swim lessons offered so all families feel equipped with the right tools.

“We have what’s called ‘Safety Around Water,’” Burrows said. “It’s our drowning prevention program that’s opened up to the community. We have lots of community groups that come in, and it’s focused really on safe skills in the water.”

STORY: Woman stabbed in home on VC Johnson Rd.

According to the First Coast YMCA, the program consists of eight 30-minute sessions to reduce the risk of drowning by giving children confidence in and around water.

“It’s just unfortunate when you turn on the news and you see another child or even adult has drowned,” Burrows said.

The Autism Society of Florida says that Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths of children.

CLICK HERE to learn more.