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Drowning of boy with autism strengthens swim coach's concern for water safety

Drowning is leading cause of death for children with autism
Posted at 7:46 PM, Sep 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 15:22:58-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Dahud Jolicoeur, 5, passed away Saturday, after he disappeared from his home near Royal Palm Beach.

Jolicoeur was found dead in a waterway about a block away from his house on Wood Glen Circle, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.

Jolicoeur attended Connections Education Center, which provides programs for students who are on the autism spectrum. WPTV spoke to his teachers at the school about water safety.

Katie Wentley, the Health and Wellness Director at Connections, said Jolicoeur had just started at their school a few weeks ago. She said he had taken one swim lesson with her, and he loved the water.

Swim lessons are a priority at Connections. Wentley said drowning is a leading cause of death for children with autism.

"A lot of times children with autism are drawn to water, which puts them at a significantly higher risk for unfortunate incidents and tragedy," Wentley said. "By incorporating swim lessons into the school day, it can help elevate some of the pressure. It can also help to teach children the necessary skills about water safety that could help them down the road.”

Wentley said it's never too soon to teach children how to swim. She said the No. 1 thing to keep in mind is patience. She said it's also important to find a teacher who works specifically with children on the spectrum in a one-on-one setting.

Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities provides awareness of risks for children on the spectrum.