Can Swimming Benefit Children On The Autism Spectrum?

Can Swimming Benefit Children On The Autism Spectrum?

Can Swimming Benefit Children On The Autism Spectrum?

Parents of children with ASD may be concerned that their child is at at a higher risk of drowning, especially if they are aged 14 and below. Almost 50% of families with a child with autism reported that their child has wandered at least once from the age of four, so if you happen to live near water or you have a family pool, honing swimming skills as soon as possible is important. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that swimming has many other benefits for children with ASD.

A Healthy, Meaningful Activity

Research published in the journal Clinical Medicine Insights: Pediatrics (CMIP) involved interviews with various families whose children had enjoyed swimming activities. The findings showed that in addition to being a life-saving skill, swimming enhances mental, social and physical abilities. A previous study had already shown that 75% of children who took part in an adapted program improved by at least one swim level. Absolute beginners taking swimming lessons for the first time may start out by blowing bubbles or dipping parts of their body in water, but as they progress through their program, they learn more advanced skills such as floating in water, kicking, and using correct arm positioning. In the CMIP study, parents said that skills kids had learned during swimming practice reduced stereotypical movements and increased strength and fitness in other activities. 

A Calming Experience

Parents of children with ASD who take part in swimming lessons also report that their children are more relaxed. The repetitive motions required while completing laps puts one in a mindful state. In the same way that yoga requires coordination of breathing and body movement, swimming also requires coordination and proper breathing techniques. As children concentrate on their strokes and the position of their arms and legs in the water, they are very much ‘in the present moment’. Swimming is also a great way to let off steam. Some components of classes have a high level of activity. For instance, leg work often involves vigorous kicking in the water. 

Finding A Class

Find out if there are any adapted swimming classes near you. This will ensure your child is with professionals who understand the needs and challenges that children with ASD can have. Before commencing the first class, your child may feel a little stress. Calm them down with a quick session involving a bilateral stimulation device beforehand. EMDR tappers are hand-held buzzers that children look at, thus enabling the right and left hemispheres of the brain to connect. EMDR equipment reduces stress and enables children to commence new activities with greater zeal.

An Opportunity For Social Interaction

Swimming lessons also offer children the chance to interact socially. Aquatic activities provide many opportunities for social interaction and play. These, in turn, boost language development and improve self-awareness, self-confidence, and the sense of achievement. Parents also enjoy connecting with other parents of children with autism. While kids are in the water, parents can share information regarding pertinent services and help each other access vital resources.

Swimming is a fun, affordable activity that people of all ages can benefit from. Children with autism have been found to do so in many ways, since swimming helps them enhance their fitness, improve their mood and self-confidence, be safer around water, and feel calmer. Swimming is also a great place to expend energy, so if your child loves being active, swimming class is a wonderful, safe place in which to do so.


*This is a guest article written by Lucy Wyndam

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