In Australia, the summer holidays are a time that many families come together around the water. The sun shining on backyard pools can be so inviting, especially for kids with sensory needs, but with so many children on the Autism Spectrum and with other abilities unable to access swimming lessons, this can be a recipe for disaster. For Jude (aged 3) and his family, last December almost turned into tragedy…
Jude loved spending time at his grandparents’ house. He especially loved the brand new pool they had just put in! One bright and sunny summer’s day, Jude managed to get outside and over to his grandparents pool, unnoticed. He pushed a chair close to the pool fence, and proceeded to climb over. He jumped straight in the pool, unsupervised!
Before this fateful day, Jude’s parents had connected with Autism Swim Approved Provider Lauren Hansen, from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance in Allambie Heights, NSW. Jude’s parents had told Lauren that they were concerned that, because of his water seeking behaviours and lack of water safety awareness, his grandparents' pool could prove a big danger to him. Little did they know that after just 7 sessions, their concerns would become a reality for little Jude.
Thanks to his lessons with Autism Swim Approved Provider, Lauren, on that fateful day in December, Jude was able to keep his head afloat, and tread water, until he was found and safely removed from the pool. He was completely fine!
As a result of this experience, Jude’s parents were so relieved that they took the initiative to find an Autism Swim Approved Provider, to teach Jude the importance of water safety and swimming. Jude’s parent’s concern that Jude did not understand the risks associated with aquatic environments proved absolutely true, as did their anxiety over Jude being drawn to, and able to access, his grandparents' pool.
Prior to his Autism Swim lessons, Jude was utilising a life jacket at all times, therefore his ability to develop the strength and skills to maintain his head above the water without a life jacket, in just 7 sessions, has been a huge achievement. Like many people on the Autism Spectrum, Jude enjoys opportunities for sensory feedback and interaction, and as a whole, loves being in the water. His parents’ support and engagement in attending sessions, as well as reinforcing the strategies Jude learned, have resulted in Jude quickly advancing his aquatic skills, to ultimately save his life!
The Autism Swim team would like to thank Jude’s family, and Lauren Hansen at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance for continuing to highlight the importance of water safety and education. Stories like these are great reminders of Autism Swim’s key message and mission of drowning and wandering prevention, as well as education. Autism Swim provides education and resources for parents, teachers, therapists and community members to prevent wandering and drowning. See more on preventing the drowning process here (link to drowning blog .