Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition which impacts how someone views the world. People with ASD can experience difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviours. These challenges are often accompanied by sensory issues such an oversensitivity or undersensitivity to sounds, smells or touch¹.
In Australia, statistics indicate that an estimated 1:70 people have ASD². It represents the highest population of approved plans within the National Disability Insurance Scheme³.
Families who have children with disabilities identify swimming as their most popular physical activity and overall favourite activity⁴. Devastatingly, children with ASD are 160 times more likely to drown their their peers⁵, even though it’s preventable. Yet despite this, there is a huge lack of Autism Swim Approved providers in Australia.
Autism Swim is the only certifying body in the world specific to autism and aquatics. Aquatics professionals cannot be expected to provide quality services to those who can have complex needs, without the necessary training, resources and support to do so. Families all over Australia are in dire need to find a suitable and certified Autism Swim Approved service to teach their children vital water safety and swimming skill sets.
How did we come up with this data?
To identify the Australian ASD population, we obtained the percentages of people with ASD by each individual state and territory in 2015 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website.
We found the total population of each state, and using the above ASD percentages, calculated the ASD population in their respective states. However, when looking at these numbers, we realised that it was under represented.
In 2015 when these percentages were reported, the ABS official statistic for ASD was 1 in 150 people. Today, Aspect reports that the numbers are closer to 1 in 70, a far more accurate representation. To get from 1 in 150 to 1 in 70, we multiplied each state percentage by 2.1, and multiplied the total population by this adjusted percentage to get our final numbers.
For example, the bar graph shows that 0.6% of the population of NSW had ASD. We multiplied this by 2.1, which was 1.3%. We then took the total population of NSW (7 674 000) and multiplied it by 1.3% for an ASD population of 96 600 in NSW. We then split each state by regions and used this percentage to calculate the ASD population by regions.”
See below image which shows a snapshot of autism diagnoses around Australia and the correlating Autism Swim Approved services in these areas. Thank you to Sydney University students for assisting with this integral research.
The water is such an iconic part of Australia’s identity. We believe everyone has the right to thrive and survive in the water, and we hope you do too.
Help us on our mission.
Tell your local swim centre to become Autism Swim Approved.
Learn more about the relationship between water and autism, why the drowning statistics are so high, and what is being done about it.
Support Autism Swim’s work.
1. Autism Awareness Australia, Understanding Autism, Autism Awareness Australia [website], , accessed 25 November 2018.
The task: trying to understand autism 'hot spots' around Australia i.e where there are clusters of diagnoses around the country and how this correlates with where we have Autism Swim Approved services. It turns out the data about clusters doesn't exist (or can't be found), so the students had to create it.
2. Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), Autism Prevalence Rate Up By An Estimated 40% To 1 In 70 People, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), [website], 11 July 2018, , accessed 25 November 2018.
3. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (2018). COAG Disability Reform Council Quarterly Report 30 June 2018 [website] , accessed 25 November 2018.
4. Mactavish, J. B., Lutfiyya, Z. M., & Mahon, M. J. (2000). “I can speak for
myself”: Involving individuals with intellectual disabilities as research
participants. Mental Retardation, 38(3), 216–227. doi: 10.1352/0047-
5. J.Guan, G.Li, Injury Mortality in Individuals With Autism, American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 5 (May 1, 2017): pp. 791-793., DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303696.