There are many benefits for wearing goggles in swimming lessons: your child puts their eyes in the water and becomes more confident with learning new skills. Because of this, it can sometimes feel like a step backwards when your child’s swimming instructor starts encouraging them to practice swimming without goggles.
Learning to swim without goggles is a key water safety skill. If your child was to fall into water they might not be wearing goggles and may struggle to retrieve important water safety skills to help them find their way out of the water.
As you may have seen during swimming lessons, children (regardless of how big or small) can respond negatively to getting water in their eyes. Regular exposure is important to help desensitise your child’s responses.
Without opportunities to practice swimming without goggles, they may be more distracted and find it difficult to utilise water safety skills taught during their swimming lessons. Children can often find it difficult to generalise skills to new environments or when the activity is changed. This is why it is so important that we practice swimming and water safety skills with and without goggles during lessons.
Supporting your child in swimming lessons:
Parents and carers play an important role during swimming lessons, here are some ways you can support your child’s transition to swimming without goggles:
Talk with your child about not wearing goggles ahead of time:
Introduce a social story (ask your Autism Swim Approved Instructor about these) which explains the importance of learning to swim without goggles.
Provide choices and motivation:
Ask your child what reward they would like after they have finished their swimming lessons. They might like to choose between two of their preferred activities/items, provided visually.
Share this with the swimming instructor and work together to build your child’s motivation during the lesson. For example, you might say, “Remember, you are working towards going on the swing after swimming lessons. Let’s try again with your eyes in the water."
Provide encouragement during the lesson:
For example, saying, “I am so happy that you are swimming without your goggles on today. You have worked so hard.” Or even a simple thumbs up can really motivate a swimmer to keep trying something new or challenging.
Tips for practicing at home/outside of swimming lessons:
Children develop skills through regular exposure. The more opportunities we can give your child to desensitise their responses to having water in their eyes, the faster they can progress to learning new skills. Ways you can practice at home include:
- Play in the bath:
Turning bath times into a fun interaction between you and your child can be an important first step to feeling comfortable in the water, and this can extend to new skills such as tolerating putting their eyes in the water.
Start with pouring water from a cup and work towards your child initiating putting their own eyes in the water. Provide something stimulating under the water as motivation and reinforcement. Be mindful of any soaps which might cause irritation.
- Play outside:
Incidental exposures are another great way to build tolerance to getting water in your child’s eyes. Children may enjoy playing with a garden hose or sprinkler so much they forget to shield their eyes from the water.
- Family visits to the pool:
Opportunities to play in a pool where there is no pressure to participate in swimming lessons can help your child to become more comfortable in the water. Be sure to create boundaries between play and swimming lessons, perhaps by visiting a different pool/area of the pool during family visits.
- Promote blinking instead of rubbing eyes, when there is water in them (rubbing can often make things worse). We suggest blinking 10 times.