Numbers of children wtih autism continues to rise – a new approach to learning to swim is needed

University of Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Over 91% of children with autism that die under the age of 14, die from drowning. National Autism Association reports that this is four times higher than children not on the autism spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong disorder that impairs social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication and shows signs of repetitive and restrictive behavior. The Center for Disease Control estimates one in sixty- eight children are affected with this disorder.  Boys are five times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. The CDC estimates that a staggering $17.00 per year is needed to care for a child with ASD.

Financial burdens often prevent parents from seeking additional help.  One example is that children with autism like sensory stimulation and swimming provides this. However, Dr Valeish Gibbs, occupational therapy professor at the University of Sciences expressed in a pres release  that she has found that children with autism can become  overstimulated in crowded areas such as  beaches and swimming pools resulting in them escaping  into unsafe environments in an effort to isolate themselves.

Teaching children on  the autism spectrum to swim from an early age helps to give them a head start by enabling them to interact within the  swimming environment.  Lisa Miche Lawson, a certified recreational therapist and Associate Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the Director of Sensory Supported Swimming states on the Fox 4 News website:

“Kids with autism tend to have different ways of processing sensory information.”

After much research and an application for grant funding  from Autism Speaks, a grant for Sensory Supported Swimming was received. This grant allows The University of Kansas Department of Occupational Therapy Education to further develop a program that teaches children with autism how to swim.

The program is aimed at children between the ages of 4 and seventeen who are diagnosed  with autism.

Dr Gibbs further added:

“Swimming and aquatic therapy is actually a wonderful sport for children with autism because it can address many of their body’s sensory and motor needs,”

Some of the safety tips researchers suggest are; using video narratives to discuss water safety and visual  signs such as  STOP or DO NOT ENTER on the doors that open onto outside spaces.

Contributed by Mary Alexa Norris, teacher and writer with a passion for empowering those on the autism spectrum and with special needs.

 

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