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We received heartbreaking news over the weekend that yet another child with autism has drowned following a wandering incident.  As has been the case with many other wandering-related deaths, 9-year-old Ariyanna Pivachek of Florida wandered away from a party and found her way to a nearby pond.

This is a tragic reminder to all of us who have loved ones at risk that tragedies can happen in an instant.  Parties and family gatherings can be chaotic and overwhelming for our children.  It’s important to initiate a Tag, You’re It system, to ensure that there is always a responsible adult with their eyes on the child.   And please, visit this page to find a special needs swimming lessons in your area.  It is imperative that our children learn to swim, and that their final lesson is with clothes and shoes on.  For these tips and other wandering-related safety resources, please visit our AWAARE website.

Missing autistic girl found dead in Riverview pond

After a desperate three-hour search by scores of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies — including about eight divers working multiple ponds at the same time — a missing 9-year-old girl with autism was found in the bottom of a pond behind the home where she attended a party.

Deputies began searching for Ariyanna Pivachek shortly after 3:30 p.m. when a call came in that she walked away from a party at 11159 Golden Silence Drive in Riverview, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon.

The preliminary cause of death at this time appears to be an accidental drowning however a final ruling will be determined by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to McKinnon.

Ariyanna had gone missing about 20 minutes earlier in an area that has several ponds, said McKinnon.

“We had deputies fanning out in ponds, taking their gun belts off to go in,” said McKinnon, adding that about 50 deputies in all, including those flying in a helicopter, were involved in the search.

Deputies searched the party house, where there were eight adults and eight children, several times, according to McKinnon.

“We wanted to make sure she wasn’t hiding,” he said.

After searching the pond about 40 feet behind the home where the party took place for about an hour, Ariyanna was found about 15 feet from the shoreline in about 6 to 8 feet of water.

“There was zero visibility in those ponds,” said McKinnon.

Ariyanna was living in a foster home at 309 Greenview Drive, Brandon, according to McKinnon.

The girl was picked up from that home by a family who was considering adopting her, according to McKinnon. The family brought her to the Golden Silence Drive home to attend the party.

A man answering the phone at the Greenview Drive home declined comment.