Via Flickr – by Hector Alejandro
Autism and Swimming Q&A
As warm temperatures settle in, many families are getting ready to spend some quality time by the pool and are looking forward to rest and relaxation on their beach vacations. But for families with a child with autism this can be a scary time of year.
Many children with autism are drawn to water. Unfortunately, this fascination can put them in danger. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children with autism.
One way parents and caregivers can help protect children with autism is by teaching them how to swim. The added bonus is that being in the water has many benefits for children with autism. For more information about those benefits, here are a few common questions related to children with ASD and what they get out of swimming:
What are the physical benefits of swimming for my child? As Bucknell University explains in this article, swimming is an extremely beneficial exercise for most people. The water’s buoyancy helps protect your joints while the water’s resistance helps build strong, lean muscles. And of course, it offers the kind of cardiovascular exercise that helps keep your heart healthy. For children with autism, swimming has additional benefits. As this guide on aquatic therapy for children with autism notes, they are at a high risk of becoming obese. Swimming offers them a kind of exercise that can be done regardless of motor skill deficiencies and in an environment they love—the water.
What are the mental health benefits of swimming for my child? Being in the water can be soothing and relaxing. Active.com notes that studies of swimmers show that they experience less anger after a swim. And this holds true for children with ASD. Swimming’s repetitive motions can help calm a child with autism while the physical release those motions provide help them to get out frustration or pent up energy.
Can swimming have social benefits for my child? Children with autism may have difficulty interacting with their peers. As this article from LiveStrong.com explains, swimming is wonderful for children with special needs because it offers them a chance to set goals and improve at a skill while also learning to interact and work with others. And because swimming is as much about reaching personal goals as it is competing with others, the personal achievements a child makes in swimming can lead to a big boost in self-esteem.
What is the best way to find swim lessons tailored to my child’s needs? If you’re worried that your child won’t do well in a traditional swim lesson or if you’ve tried with them before and it didn’t go well, know that there are swim programs tailored to meet the needs of children with autism. AutismSpeaks.org provides access to this handy four-step process to follow in order to find swimming lessons in your area.
If you’re a parent or caregiver of a child with autism and you’ve been dreading summer because of the added dangers it could pose for your child, embrace swimming. When your child knows how to swim and be safe around the water, they’ll have a way to protect themselves while also seeing immense physical and mental health benefits.
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Vee Cecil a guest author at The Autism Zone, is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor who lives in Kentucky with her family. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
We are glad to say Vee Cecil is a volunteer worker for The Autism Zone Inc.