This is a copy of correspondence that I have sent to the Leyden School District 212 attorney with copies to the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education, Dr. Brian Mahoney and the Leyden High Schools Athletic Director, Rick Mason.:
I am writing this because of the extensive number of families I consult with in the District who have students on the Autism Spectrum, as well as being a member of the Leyden community as a whole.
Dr. Mahoney advised me that throughout this past academic year swimming was not in the adaptive physical education curriculum because of COVID protocols. With the dropping of the masking requirement which seemed according to Dr. Mahoney’s communication the major barrier in instituting swimming in the curriculum, I am urging that the District look at re-instituting swimming in the Adaptive PE Curriculum.
Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 2014).
According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning accounted for approximately 90% of total deaths (US) reported in children with ASD ages 14 and younger in 2009 to 2011.
As of last month, further statistics have come to light (American Journal of Public Health), outlining that drowning accounts for 46% of all injury deaths among children with autism, which translates to 160 times the chance of dying from drowning compared to other children. Individuals 14 years and younger are 40 times more likely to die from injury than the general pediatric population. Swimming isn’t just a workout for the body; it also works the mind, and its benefits outlast the time in the pool.
Day-to-day challenges faced by autistic children like anxiety, concentration, overstimulation, and social interaction can all be improved. The statistics of drowning for those children with Downs Syndrome and other disabilities mirror the ASD statistics.
I am going to be requesting that the SD 212 Board of Education undertake this as an initiative in their role of Curriculum approval and COVID protocol adoption move forward to direct the reinstatement of swimming in the Adaptive PE Curriculum this Spring, 2022.
I have to assume that every administrator, faculty member and board member would be greatly distressed to hear of a Leyden High School disabled student who wandered or engages in some water activities this summer drowning, knowing that they may have been saved if the District had reinstated swimming in their curriculum as soon as they were able to do so.
I would appreciate the support of the District in this initiative.
Roy F. McCampbell, Esq
Leyden High School District 212 spent millions of dollars on a new aquatic’s center at East Leyden which was built with the intention of supporting a Water Polo Team but not taking into consideration the utility of purpose for children with disabilities nor the community in general.
The main pool is uniformly 7 feet in depth which is necessary for water polo competition. But this uniform depth of 7 feet deprives many disabled students from utilizing the pool as well as it is not a safe facility for community recreational swimming in the evenings or on weekends.
The West Leyden pool has similar deficient design issues making it difficult for the usage by handicapped students.
Children with autism, and even Down syndrome, often wander, which can obviously be very unsafe if they get close to water unsupervised. Additionally, drowning can occur without making any sound. Children may also be unaware of things such as water depth, water temperature, or water currents. Not every child likes to be in the water, especially children that struggle with sensory issues. However, all children should still be aware of water safety in case of accidental slips or falls into a pool or lake.
This statistic is scary and sobering, but every parent of an autistic child needs to know – drowning is a leading cause of death for children with autism.