As summer rolls around, many families find themselves spending more time near water – at pools, waterparks, ponds, or beaches. And with vacation travel top of mind for many parents, we thought it was a good time to remind you about the need to be especially careful around water with your children on the autism spectrum.
Water safety is a priority for any parent, and many children on the autism spectrum are prone to wandering and lack the awareness of the dangers around them. These children are at a higher risk than other children when in or near water. Teaching your child to swim is a first step in keeping your loved one safe – at home or on vacation.
To help, we’ve partnered with Sunsational Swim School, a national provider of private swim instruction with 1000 certified swim instructors in 22 metro areas, who has generously provided our friends and fans a promotional offer for its special needs swim program. Buy a package of 12 lessons and get one lesson FREE (per student), which represents a savings of $45-$64! Simply mention the code TAYLORSTIME15 online or by phone (1-888-788-2140) to take advantage of the offer. Sunsational is one of the only national professional swim companies to offer private swim instruction for children on the autism spectrum. Check out the parent reviews on their website and visit them on Facebook for more information about the services they offer. You can see the areas they serve by clicking here.
We spoke to four parents about the importance of teaching their children to swim. Here’s what they had to say.
Carol S is mom to Johan, a 3 year old on the spectrum.
Jamie P, a caregiver to children on the spectrum, is mom to Ava
Lori S is mom to Robert, a 15 year old with autism spectrum disorder
Nicole S is mom to Jack, a 4 year old with autism spectrum disorder
1. How often does your family travel to the beach or spend time at the pool over the summer?
We like to go to the beach at least one week out of the summer. If financially we could do more, we would. The pool on the other hand, as often as possible. Maybe 4-5 times a week? – Carol S
We spend significant time in the water. Most neighborhood and parks have pools these days! Also, trips to the beach are inexpensive and fun! – Jamie P
In the summer, Robert spends about 2 to 3 days a week at a pool. – Lori S
During the summer, we typically go to the pool at least once per week. – Nicole S
2. What precautions do you/have you taken to ensure water safety with your children?
Right now Johan wears a life jacket that is certified for his age in pools and ocean. He is taking swimming lessons, so we hope to be out of the jacket before summer is over. – Carol S
Awareness is the most important. I always have eyes on the kid/kids that I’m with be it my daughter, her friends, or a client/student of mine. Exposure to water is also extremely important including formal or informal lessons/practice. My daughter cannot swim yet, so she always wears a life vest around water. – Jamie P
Robert learned to swim when he was about 2 years old – our nanny was a certified swim instructor. He never used goggles in the beginning and not until he was learning to do side breathing did he put goggles on. This is key – in case he ever fell into the water without them he would not panic. Robert is an excellent treader and can easily float on his back. Both of these were key, too to ensure his safety. – Lori S
We always have our children wear life vests and they are never more than a few inches away from my husband or myself at all times. We are also currently looking into getting professional swimming lessons for them. – Nicole S
3. Does your child know how to swim?
Johan is a fish in water, he has no fear of the water. He jumps in goes all the way under. He does not swim without the jacket yet. – Carol S
Not yet. – Jamie P
Yes – Lori S
No – Nicole S
4. How did your child learn to swim and how important was it for your child to learn to swim?
Private lessons and just experience of practice. The importance is of the highest level. – Carol S
It is vital for her to learn. She has had significant informal practice, but the availability for lessons for her age is very hard for a working mother. Its similar with my students with special needs, there should be a multitude of options for children of all ages and abilities. All children should know how to swim, there is water everywhere! – Jamie P
It was very important he learned to swim early since we love being at the beach and by at the pool. – Lori S
We are looking into getting him professional swimming lessons. As much as he loves being in the water, it is extremely important that he learn how to swim for his safety as well as for our peace of mind. – Nicole S
5. What concerns do you have about water and your children, specifically your child with autism?
Johan does not fear anything, with that being said, he will jump in no matter the depth or the cold of the water. Safety is priority to us. – Carol S
Fear is my greatest concern with my daughter and my students. When you are afraid you are significantly more likely to panic. With simple technique awareness children could easily help themselves by at least floating instead of sinking, but this will not be effective or possible if they are too scared to do it. This is why it is vital for children to have exposure and lessons. – Jamie P
Robert loves the water and I feel a lot better since he knows how to swim. – Lori S
We have heard way too many stories about children with autism being drawn to water and drowning. We know that our son loves the water so this is a very real concern for us. We want to know that when our son is in the water, he will know exactly what to do to keep himself safe. – Nicole S
6. Has your child every taken swim lessons? How was your experience?
Currently taking them. They are amazing with Johan. He loves the lessons. Water in general is a great way to calm Johan. – Carol S
Not yet. She was too young for the evening classes. If there were classes available, I would have had her in them from the time she was a baby. When she turns 3 she will apply for the evening group classes, but I don’t think that’s fair. We cannot afford a private trainer. – Jamie P
Yes, he learned to swim with his nanny, who was a certified swim instructor, at the age of 2. – Lori S
No. We are currently looking into getting him professional swimming lessons, but it’s been challenging finding swimming lessons for children with autism. – Nicole S
This blog post is part of our series on wandering and water safety. We encourage you to share this important information with your friends and family. Please see our related posts by selecting from the options below.