Why Autism Swim lessons are not ‘recreation’.
Recently, one of our AS-Approved instructors contacted the NDIS concerning the constantly changing guidelines for registering under particular line items. The instructor was effectively told that the line items are restricted to those that relate to recreation.
As per the Collins Dictionary...
Brilliant! Sounds great! Given the highly therapeutic nature of water, if that’s all we were here to achieve, how easy our jobs would be; and sure, feeling relaxed in the water before beginning any programmatic elements is one paramount component of the work that we do, however simply learning how to relax isn’t going to change the statistic that 90% of deaths for children with ASD is a result of drowning; so here we have a slight (major) oversight.
Autism Swim Approved lessons involve so much more, as you can see in the following diagram…
- Can fulfil sensory needs in a low stimulation environment
- The repetitive nature of swimming can have therapeutic benefits
- Gross Motor output is an essential self-regulation tool for individuals with ASD
- Swimming lessons aim to equip individuals with confidence and skills imperative to ensure safety in the water
- Swimming can result in increased coordination, mobility and balance
- It can achieve cognitive benefits (including increased communication skills) through skill development
- Swimming results in increased fitness, joint stability and muscle strength and tone
- It can assist in training body sensation, body awareness, joint position, spatial awareness and posture control
- Swimming allows for a social outlet
- Swimming assists in preventing drowning
- It provides a sense of purpose
- Swimming increases confidence
- It's fun!
There are many research articles outlining the benefits of swimming for individuals with ASD, including a recent research concluding that swimming increases communication skills in this population group. Feel free to contact us if you require a copy of any of the published research articles on this.
So, if there are so many benefits, and so much research to support it, how do you go about obtaining funding in your NDIS plan for swimming lessons/water safety/drowning prevention?
Here, we have outlined the general guidelines, and what needs to be included in your planning meeting in order for specialised swimming lessons/water safety/drowning prevention support to be considered:
Our OT Jarrod introduced a great philosophy recently, “You can compare swimming lessons to driving lessons. Just like driving lessons, you can argue that everyone should pay for the lessons. However, on the other side of the coin, you can say that someone with ASD will require additional training from the instructor, more lessons, and a more comfortable environment”.
- Link the lessons back to your goals
- Focus on drowning prevention and water safety/education, not just the ‘swimming’ components. It is after all, an Aquatics Program that you're looking for, now just learn-to-swim classes.
- Reiterate that the swimming lessons are provided by an AS-Approved Instructor (if that's the case); meaning they have become specialised
- Provide justification for why a group lesson would not be suitable (Your Occupational Therapist or Behaviour Specialist can help with this justification).
Let us know how you go and if we can help along the way!