A new study that examined the death certificates of 32 million people, including 1,043 males and 324 females with autism spectrum disorder, found that, as a group, the number of deaths of those with ASD increased by 700 percent from 1999 to 2014. Further, Medical News Today reports that data from the study showed that children with ASD are "are 160 times as likely to die from drowning as the general pediatric population." This conclusion has resulted in a warning to parents with autistic children that "swimming classes should be the intervention of top priority."

In 2013, many disorders, including Asperger's syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder, were folded into the diagnosis of ASD.

Those diagnosed face a range of challenges, including social impairment and different uncontrollable movements. Some, such as Casey "Remrov" Vormer, are thought to be given the ability to focus on complex tasks for long periods of time, allowing him to create intricately detailed pencil sketches of wildlife, animals, people, and other scenes. However, not all individuals with Autism possess savant abilities, as Mr. Vormer does, and the lack of a demonstrable special skill should not be used as evidence of whether some is autistic, or not.

Suffocation most common fatal injury suffered by those with ASD

The study into the deaths of people with ASD, conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, found that 28 percent of those studied were by injury, most commonly by suffocation.

Dr. Guohua Li, with Columbia, stated that, though the number of people with autism dying has increased significantly "autism-related deaths still may be severely underreported, particular deaths from intentional injuries such as assaults, homicide, and suicide."

Of the injury-related deaths, 80 percent were said to have occurred by suffocation, with over 40 percent of those cases being reported to have occurred while receiving institutionalized and home care.

Dr. Li suggests that autistic children are drawn to the "serenity" of water, which helps reduce anxiety associated with the condition. "Unfortunately, this behavior too often leads to tragedies," Dr. Li stated.

Swimming: 'imperative survival skill' for autistic kids

The findings of the study prompted the Columbia professor of epidemiology to recommend that parents and doctors should be encouraged children with ASD to be enrolled in Swimming Lessons as soon as receiving a diagnosis, which sometimes happens as early as 2 or 3.

Given data showing that children with autism are at a heightened risk of drowning, by 160 times, Dr. Li feels that swimming lessons for children with ASD should be a top priority, "before any behavioral therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy." He described learning to swim as an "imperative survival skill" for kids with autism.

Science Times notes that Dr. Li's research did not draw conclusions about why the number of people with autism dying each year is increasing. WebMD reports that the number of cases of autism in the United States has grown significantly, with only one in 2,000 children being diagnosed in the 70s and 80s, and one in 150 eight-years-olds being diagnosed today. Overall, one in 68 children is reported to live with ASD.