Ever wonder why we do what we do? Why we are so passionate about teaching children with special needs? Why we care so much about the lifesaving skill of swimming? It’s no secret that One with the Water embraces a scientifically based, whole person approach to coaching, so let’s dig a little deeper.
A recent study indicated that the risk of drowning for children with autism is 160x greater than the general population. That alone is a compelling argument for teaching children diagnosed with ASD the lifesaving skill of swimming. But there’s more!
3 Reasons to teach children with Autism to swim.
Multiple studies conducted within the last 20 years provide substantial evidence of the physical and social benefits of swimming for children with ASD.
First: It’s great at increasing physical fitness and swimming ability in children with ASD. This is important when considering that childhood obesity, while declining, is still an epidemic in America. In one study, after ten weeks of beginning swimmer training, the swimmer saw an significant improvement in balance, agility, cardiac fitness, and muscle strength. In other studies, all the children showed a dramatic increase in their swimming ability, proving what we already know – a comprehensive learn-to-swim program tailored to children with autism is highly effective at increasing swimming skill and physical fitness. Additionally, everyone can (and should) learn the lifesaving skill of swimming.
Second: Swimming has been shown to reduce the repetitive motion/behaviors commonly associated with autism. In one of the above studies, not only did the 10 week program increase physical fitness, the swimmer experienced a clear reduction in repetitive behaviors. Additional studies have shown similar results. The natural repetitive motions used in swimming and therapeutic properties of the water can mimic the repetitive and self-soothing behaviors used by children with ASD.
Third: Children with autism often struggle mightily with communication, social interaction, and behavior. Swimming can help improve social interactions with peers and decrease antisocial behaviors. Multiple studies show that swimmers with autism were able strengthen social connections and enhance acceptance among their peers and classmates. Plus, swimming encourages parallel play and observational learning.
What we do matters because the evidence is clear. Swimming doesn’t just have the potential to save lives, but to effect lifelong change for good.
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Molly is a member of our creative team, mom of four water-loving babies, and a fierce advocate for CPR training and really early swim instruction.