Following the death last week of a 2-year-old girl with autism near a playground in Edina, disability advocates in the metro area are sharing safety solutions that they say may have prevented the tragedy.

The playground in Rosland Park, which was designed for people with disabilities, is positioned between Lake Cornelia and a retention pond where the body of Iklas Abdullahi Ahmed was recovered after an 18-hour search and rescue Tuesday.

Iklas' family said she had nonspeaking autism, meaning that she didn't always respond when spoken to or given verbal instructions. Authorities said she was drawn to water, which can often lead to elopement — a term used to describe autistic children and youth wandering or running away.

Drowning is a leading cause of death among people with autism, and a 2017 study found that wandering is the most common cause of drowning among children with autism.

Though the circumstances surrounding Iklas' disappearance and death are still under investigation, disability advocates believe hers was a tragic case of elopement at an inclusive but unfenced playground not far from bodies of water.

"It's heartbreaking, predictable and preventable," said Jules Edwards, founder of the groups MN Autistic Alliance and Autistic, Typing.

An autistic mother of three autistic children who also serves on the Minnesota Autism Council, Edwards said inclusive playgrounds need to be enclosed.

"I think if we can count on the fact that people will make mistakes and if we can adapt the environment to be safer, then we prevent future tragedies," she said. "There's a false sense of safety when you label something as inclusive."

Parents of autistic children say there are few truly inclusive playgrounds in the Twin Cities where children of all abilities can safely play. One that is fully enclosed is at St. David's Center for Child and Family Development in Minnetonka, which now is open only to St. David's families due to COVID-19 precautions, said Maureen Walsh, chief advancement and strategy officer.

Walsh said the thoughtful design of the St. David's playground goes beyond Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, with fenced portions of a 2.5-acre forest along with sensory equipment, a music area and garden.

"It's a treasured place. I think our parents and kids feel seen and valued," she said.

Edina Parks and Recreation Director Perry Vetter said the inclusive playground at Rosland Park also went beyond ADA guidelines when it added sensory features similar to St. David's. But most of the playground's periphery is wide open.

Vetter said he was waiting for more details on the circumstances of Iklas' death before evaluating recommendations to improve the playground at Rosland Park.

"I think once we know more of that information, then we can evaluate it to say, 'Was there a physical change that could have helped?' " he said.

While the search for Iklas was still underway, the Edina City Council heard from concerned residents and parents.

Alissa Movern, a former special education teacher, urged city leaders in an e-mail to look into the safety of Rosland Park so that "no other family has to worry that their special needs child wander[s] away from this park into the hazards that surround it."

"As a former special education teacher that taught many students with a variety of needs, elopement is a big concern," Movern added.

When Edina unveiled Rosland's inclusive playground in 2016, resident Kate Quale tried to raise awareness about the importance of fencing for children with autism like her 7-year-old daughter. They visited the playground when it first opened but haven't been back because of the lack of fencing. They go to St. David's instead.

"Having a visual boundary like a fence helps slow down elopement or even stop it in some cases, and it helps set clear expectations for children of all ages and whether or not they have disabilities," said Quale, a disability advocate who serves on Gov. Tim Walz's councils on developmental disabilities and early childhood intervention.

Terri O'Grady, who has lived near Rosland Park for 20 years, watched the search for Iklas from her apartment balcony, hoping she would turn up unharmed. Then she saw officials bring a white sheet to the pond. Days later, she placed a sunflower there at the memorial.

"I had a weird feeling about this pond because of its proximity to the park," she said. "I do think there should be a fence here. It's just too open with little children."

An online campaign for Iklas' funeral and memorial has raised more than $76,000. A relative, Najma Omar, said she and her family were "still in disbelief" and "shook by it because it was so sudden."

"It's one of those things you don't ever imagine happening to you or anybody," she said. "It's good to see so much support we're getting from people. We're all coming to terms with it right now. At the same time, it's still very hard to grasp and to believe."