Swimming is a wonderful way for children with autism to stay active. One reason is that it provides amazing physical benefits, helping them to strengthen muscles, and in turn, improve motor skill deficiencies. In addition to the physical benefits, being in the water has been shown to have other mental health benefits for children with autism. For example, it calms and soothes them.
But in order to take advantage of these benefits, a child with autism must be able to stay safe around the water. One way parents can keep their child safe is by helping them learn to swim. If you’ve been wary of teaching your child to swim in the past or if you’re simply looking for guidance on how to do so, read on for a Q&A on how to get started.
Is your child familiar with water safety?
Before your child starts swimming lessons, be sure they understand how to stay safe around the water. Military One Source offers water safety tips for parents of children with special needs and guidance on how to teach them water safety rules.
What is the instructor to child ratio?
Chances are a child with autism will need extra attention during a lesson; a traditional swim program might not work for them. Neapolitan Family tells about swim lessons designed specifically for children with autism. In the program described, the instructor to child ratio is 1:2. In order to improve your child’s chances for success, look for swim lessons that offer similar one-on-one learning opportunities.
Are sensory issues being addressed?
If your child has sensory issues, try to address them either before their first lesson or as part of their swim lessons. There are swim programs, such as this one, that include activities for helping a child overcome their sensory issues as they learn to swim.
Have you taken steps to prepare your child for the lessons?
If you think your child might be overwhelmed by their first lesson, be sure to take steps ahead of time to help them prepare. This guide on the benefits of aquatic therapy for children with autism explains that you know your child best. Therefore, you’ll be best equipped to get them ready for their time in the pool.
While learning to swim is absolutely a valuable skill for kids with autism, it’s important to remember that knowing how to swim doesn’t make them (or any child) drown proof. Always be sure to provide proper supervision for your child when you are in or around water.
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Guest Blogger~ Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor who lives in Kentucky with her family.