Every parent of a child with autism should be aware of two key statistics. First, children with autism are twice as likely to be obese than those without developmental disabilities. Second, drowning is a leading cause of death for kids with autism.
And that’s why swimming is such a valuable skill for them to learn. Not only is it an excellent way for a child with autism to get active, it is also a potentially life-saving ability.
Here are a few tips on how you can help your child learn to swim:
Look for a swim lesson tailored for kids with special needs. For the best results, it may be necessary to find a swim program that is tailored to meet the needs of children with autism. For tips on what to look for in your child’s swim lessons, read this information-packed guide on aquatic therapy for children with autism.
Address sensory issues. Many children with autism have sensory processing disorder. If your child has sensory issues related to water, be sure to plan for addressing those as you begin lessons. SensorySwim.com recommends seeking out a swim instructor who is familiar with sensory processing disorder and capable of dealing with those issues as your lessons progress.
Use First/Then. LovinAdoptin.com explains the “First/Then” concept. Essentially, you can use it to encourage a child with autism to work on a skill they may not be that interested in so that they get to do something they like to do. In the article, the blogger gives the example of asking a child first to kick his legs so that he can then jump off the side of the pool—his favorite thing to do.
Always remind them of the rules. Of course, knowing how to swim will not make your child drown proof. They’ll still need to have a strong understanding of water safety rules. ProjectAutism.org provides tips for ensuring your child really absorbs those lessons when you teach them. For example, minimize distractions as much as possible and use visuals.
Knowing how to swim can literally save your child’s life. While learning to swim may require time and patience from you and your child, the payoffs are undeniable. At the end of the road, they’ll have another way to protect themselves from harm and a new talent that can keep them healthy and well.