At 2 we took our son Jake to swimming lessons. We were apprehensive but hopeful, he seemed to love water and at that stage he wasn’t diagnosed. He screamed, clung to me and resisted everything. Didn’t follow any instructions and was totally distressed the whole time. Afterwards I cried and my husband and I decided he would take him next time.
The story continues but gets worse and more traumatic for everyone at each failed attempt. Looking back now... the environment, the activities, the communication, pace and expectations were all for neurotypical children. A wonderful program but not for children with ASD - in fact in many ways, the complete opposite to what they need.
Our son has autism and whilst each child on the spectrum is different, one thing is certain - they learn differently to neurotypical kids. The environment has a huge impact, what excites other children can frighten a child with autism, they don’t learn by watching, and often don’t pick up any cues or direction from teachers or others at all.
They need basic language, maybe just one word at a time at a young age, otherwise you may as well be speaking Spanish! They thrive on routine and feel secure with repetition. When we finally found Brith, she made Jake a picture chart. The pool was quiet, he was one-on-one. She understood his needs and took time to get to know him.
Security and trust was the first barrier to overcome.
After screaming the first lesson he got better very quickly! Brith knew where to start and how to manage Jake's needs- and mine! He has found confidence in the water now and loves his swim each week. It has almost been a form of therapy.
I recommend autism specific swimming to anyone I meet with a child on the spectrum because it meets the needs of the child and can change a traumatic experience into a positive life skill.
Amy (Mother), Gold Coast (QLD, Australia)
... He has found confidence in the water now and loves his swim each week. It has almost been a form of therapy."