Study: People With Autism Have Higher Risk Of Dying Due To Injuries, Drowning

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald March 26, 04:00 am

A new study aimed at learning the circumstances of mortality in people with autism revealed alarming findings. Experts from Columbia University learned that individuals on the autism spectrum have a higher risk of dying from preventable injuries or drowning.

Researchers conducted the study on people with autism for a period of 15 years. They noted the average mortality age among their subjects was at 36-years-old compared to the general population's life expectancy at 72-year-old. Experts published their findings in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers looked into records of 39 million deaths and screened those diagnosed with autism. They found 1,367 individuals and learned 28 percent died from injuries. Most of the deaths happened at home or in a care facility.

At least 80 percent of the deaths involved suffocation or asphyxiation. Among children and teens with autism, however, drowning was the fatal injury. Experts said the risk of drowning in children with autism occur between age 5 to 7. Kids at this age love exploring and those with autism are often attracted to water.

Given what they've learned, senior study author Dr. Guohua Li suggested parents consider swimming lessons for children with autism as it could improve their survival skills. "The first concrete step parents and caregivers could take to reduce the exceptionally high risk of accidental drowning is to enroll these children in swimming classes," the expert said, CNN reported.

Michael Rosanoff of Autism Speaks expressed no surprise for the study's findings. In fact, Autism Speaks has a long-existing water safety program for families with kids with autism, as well as a resource center for parents and caregivers on how to prevent children with autism from wandering off.

Rosanoff, however, acknowledged the significance of the large-scale research. "Autism is often a co-occurring medical and psychiatric condition that is likely to play a role in this premature mortality finding," he said.

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