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Swimming Experiences - Think Tank!

spectrumswimming's picture

Swimming Experiences - Think Tank!

Sat 27 Jun 2015 7:37am

Hello! I am looking for some honest input about your experiences with Swimming and Swimming lessons for individuals with ASD. I am potentially looking to open a Swim School specifically for children with Autism. I have an ABA/VB background working 1-2-1 within home and school settings as a therapist for a number of years. Having learnt to swim myself as an adult, I am now a keen swimmer both within the pool and in open-water environments, competing regularly in races for fun! I understand personally and professionally how water can have a calming and soothing effect on mood. I have had experience with helping children overcome their fears of water from not being able to sit near a pool, to building their confidence up enough that they were able to enter the pool and even go on water slides. This was done by breaking down the activity into small accomplishable steps. I am very aware that children with ASD, if they have not been exposed to water environments, will need stimulus-stimulus pairing to build MO with the new environment and that effective reinforcement is fundamental for strengthening and maintaining new appropriate behaviours and skills.


I am looking for your input for vital information to help build my school, if you don’t mind. Could you possibly give me your honest views for the following questions:


- What, if any, experience do you have with swimming lessons for your child?

- How did you find that experience? Was it easy to find teachers/schools that could support the needs of your child??

- Did you encounter any problems with your experiences? If so, can you share those problems?

- How much would you be willing to pay for 1-2-1 lessons with a certified swimming teacher with previous ABA experience in home and school settings?


Your help is truly appreciated! 


Thank you!

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  • JosieB's picture



    Welcome to the forum.


    I am sure there are many parents who would appreciate a swim club that's specifically for their children on the spectrum.


    All three of my children, including my youngest who has a diagnosis, were taught to swim during swimming lessons given during their school day.  Pre school I had taken them to the swimming baths regularly and they could splash about and doggy paddle but were taught proper swimming strokes at the school lessons.  It was a mainstream primary school and we are in Scotland where it's not unusual for trips to the swimming baths for lessons is part of their curriculum in their fifth or sixth year.   Having said that my children are all grown up now so I couldn't say whether this is still the case.


    I am sure some of the others will pop in with their experiences.


    Good luck with your venture.






    Josie - Community Champion
  • fixmatop's picture


    Welcome from me too

    I think this could be a good thing and people may like this idea. I am not a parent, but as a child swimming was something that was fabulous for me. I got lessons in primary six of school here in scotland, but found it very hard to learn in their style.

    However, I did love swimming and my brother took it on himself to make swimming trips and swimming lessons a regular thing for us. From age 7 he took me weekly swimming and taught me. Big group activities weren't my thing then, but he taught me well. I am not the best swimmer but if it wasn't for him and my dad I wouldn't be swimming at all.

    Something like your idea would have been good for me. I do think you right children with sensory issues, swimming pool surroundings can be problematic, so with those types of classes you would be able to maybe make arrangements for best times of day for noise, problems with lighting ect.

    Kim - Community Champion
  • Hayles's picture


    Swimming for us and our son had been Extremely difficult. Sensory Overload for noise, balance in the water and water on the face. It took us months and months and a VERY understanding (Small Swimming pool, out of main town) Undertstanding staff to get him near a pool as he would scream. When we eventually got him in the pool he clung on for dear life to me & this caused more problems. However we got him through that & using armbands and swimming but he never strayed far from myself or husband. Any Screaming or splashing and he left the pool. Parents playing with there children in pool throwing them about or kids jumping in he became extremely anxious and loud voicing his concerns about the dangers as he saw it as Danger. Our son is 10 & half and this has all occured in last 3 yrs. We are now at the stage where he will use a Woggle in the swimming pool but thats as far as we have got him, sadly other problems have meant that swimming has gone on the back burner. 

    Swimming for me is Extremely important to me as I had a Bad experience in a pool when a young adult and I was held under water by an ex & stopped breathing if it wasnt for a Life guard I wouldnt be here now. My Husband worked hard over the many years to get me back into the Swimming pool and feeling safe. So getting my son use to water and swimming for me is a must. We looked at lessons, spoke to 2 people woman, who were susposedly trained with Special needs Autism, 1 said he had to do things and that was that and our son refused to do anything with her and another told him he couldnt swim and was doing it wrong. Our Son swims Breast stroke but won't go under water, he can also swim on his back with his Woggle, he was told he must swim Freestyle which he was having none of. 

    He starts at his New Secondary school in Sept and we have spoken to the Swimming teacher their and she has okayed it for our son to swim Breast stroke and is going to work with him to bring him on. But taking him swimming isnt easy as most of the Main Swimming pools near us have lots of noise and as our son sees it dangers. 

    Hayles x

  • Kirsty jane's picture

    My .Son has asd, he has swimming lessons once a week. But they struggle to move him up groups because he isn't consistent with his progress. This is infuriating for him and me. 

    He cannot always do what they ask, but loves swimming. I never have an issue getting him to swim. But he doesn't see the dangers of the pool...which is worrying.

  • spectrumswimming's picture

    Wow! Firstly thank you so much for your welcome and sharing your experiences I am overwhelmed by your responses!

    I have had some experience in taking children on the spectrum swimming so am aware of sensory issues that may occur. Not many local authority pools let people run private lessons in their pools, so I am having to look outside the box - private pools, school/college pools - and like you mentioned Kim, quieter parts of the day.

    Like you Kirsty Jane, I too have seen how individuals on the spectrum can either be afraid of the water or have a strong affinity to it to the point where it becomes dangerous. These are the two reasons why I'd love open a school, to enable children to be safe(r) in water environments. 

    Hayles - I think it is brilliant that your child has gone from not even entering the pool to being in the water and swimming breast stroke! Sounds like you really worked hard and it shows from those results! It's such a shame that neither swimming teacher could find a way to teach your son, this is something I want to look into more and find a way to break down the act of swimming in a more understandable and teachble way. 

    All of your information has been so helpful! Thank you!

  • michaelz's picture

    A former international swimmer who did not achieve her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal is expanding her swimming school, which was set up to help other people achieve theirs.

    Angela Wilson became Scottish National Champion at 11 and was selected for Team GB aged 15. She competed in the World, European and Commonwealth Games, but ill health forced her to retire.

    She was also diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder...



  • michaelz's picture

    angela's swim school - http://www.angelasswimschool.co.uk/about/who-is-angela/

    and swimming suffragettes on woman's hour  :

    As outdoor pools open their doors for the summer and women pull out their costumes and caps, it's time to reflect on the 'swimming suffragettes' who made women's swimming possible.

    The sport was exclusively male in the 19th century, so women turned to 'secret swimming' and fought for poolside equality. Writer and keen swimmer, Jenny Landreth, has a new 'waterbiography' out called, Swell. She joins us to talk about the 'swimming suffragettes' and her own great love of swimming.



  • michaelz's picture

    article by angela in city am newspaper :



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