Swimming lessons may help to save the lives of thousands of autistic children, scientists claim.
Young sufferers are 160 times more likely to drown than their peers, a new study suggests.
Many tend to wander around unsupervised, becoming drawn in by the apparent serenity of a pool, experts believe.
Lead author Dr Guohua Li, of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said: 'Swimming classes should be the intervention of top priority.'
He added that they should begin the lessons soon after being diagnosed at age two or three - before any kind of behavioural or speech therapy.
In an interview with MedicalNewsToday, Dr Li added: 'With impaired communication and social skills, autistic kids tend to seek relief of their heightened anxiety from the serenity of water bodies.
'Unfortunately, this behavior too often leads to tragedies.'
Dr Li and his colleagues assessed the death certificates of more than 1,300 autistic people between 1999 and 2014.
They found that deaths among people with autism are up by around 700 per cent since they began their study.
Those on the spectrum are three times more likely to die from an injury than the general population, the research claimed.
But the researchers argued that deaths by injury may actually be more common than the figures show.
Alongside drowning, suffocation was the second-most common killer in sufferers, according to the report in the American Journal of Public Health.
People with autism also die at age 36 on average, less than half that of the general population.
Autism, more properly known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) – includes Asperger's syndrome.
It has long been known that some people with autism have superior abilities in areas such as mathematics and science.
The neurological condition affects four to five times as many males as females, believed to be around 1.5 per cent of all children
Its exact cause remains unknown, and diagnosis requires many doctors specialising in a number of different disciplines.
People with the condition can also have difficulties with understanding language and the rules of social interaction as well as understanding emotion.
This research comes after scientists found grandmothers tend to be the first family members to spot the signs of autism.
A group of New York-based doctors claimed that children who frequently interact with their grandparents can quicken their diagnosis by up to five months.