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Teaching A Swimmer With Autism Spectrum Disorder

I have been teaching swimming for over twenty-five years. A few years ago, I started teaching swimmers diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. The difference in my teaching methods did not change. I have always given step-by-step instructions, breaking down each motion into 3 or fewer simple steps. Sometimes, I even move their arms and legs for the swimmers, so that they can feel how their muscles should be moving in the correct form.

What is the difference in teaching children diagnosed as being on the spectrum? They seem to enjoy swimming more than the average person. There is something about being in the water that just makes them feel calm and relaxed, and present in their bodies.

I have seen that many people who have children with Autism do not get the resources they need. Some insurance companies do not recognize Autism as a treatable or recognizable condition. These families have to work so hard just to maintain the basics. At One with the Water, we see these families struggling and are trying our best to ease their burdens. Swimming is an incredible vehicle for positive change and awareness.

Chad, a teenager who trained with us for five months, recently made the cut-off times to train with his high school varsity swim team. While training with us, he progressed from swimming almost two minutes per 100 yards freestyle, to less than 1 minute 10 seconds per 100 yards. Chad has been training with his varsity team for almost 3 months now, and his swimming is progressing so that Chad is competing in breaststroke as well as freestyle. More importantly for us, Chad is able to compete in the mainstream swim program offered by his school.

In addition to the lack of financial resources for families, most public and private schools do not have the resources to provide programs for children with special needs within their athletic programs. Chad requires a little one-on-one attention. Schools and large programs do not have these resources, nor are they set up to provide such instruction for their students. This gap needs to be filled, and One with the Water fills that gap.

My experience in teaching the kids has been phenomenal. They are smart, communicative in their own ways, and they appreciate being in the water. They love the pressure on their bodies, like a hug, that the water puts on them. They like being submerged. This helps them to feel grounded. With all of the stimulation in the world today: noise, internet, visual and verbal, being under water helps them to escape from that and clear their minds.

As one father with a child on the Autism Spectrum recently told me, “Henry really responded to you, and looks forward to his class with you more than anything else right now. After the first class with you , he suddenly looked forward to and enjoyed swimming, as opposed to dreading it. He made huge strides, the biggest he has ever made, working with you.”

Donations made to One with the Water are used to provide instruction, insurance, and pool rental in order to teach kids like Chad and Henry. Help us to keep teaching these children, saving their lives, by donating today.

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