Adapted swimming lesson builds confidence and safety skills for children with autism
Ohio State University researchers are developing a pilot program that offers personalized swimming and water safety sessions for children with autism.
For an autistic child, swimming can be intimidating and dangerous. But a pilot study that offered personalized aquatic occupational therapy to 19 children with autism has proven successful and will nearly double the number of children it serves over the next year.
Researchers from Wexner Medical Center and The Ohio State University College of Medicine say early results show the lessons not only improved swimming skills, but also helped develop physical, behavioral and social skills that go beyond beyond the pool. Individualized instruction makes a difference according to Erika Kemp, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at the Ohio School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
“What is their best way to learn, what type of person should they be paired with, do they need visuals or reinforcers, all of those types of things can be integrated, which makes this program unique,” continued Kemp. “It’s not just focused on swimming skills, but also on the educational and behavioral needs of each child.”
Sarah Cline’s four-year-old son, Cooper, participated in the adaptive swimming program.
“He will actually jump into the shallow end of the pool on his own,” Cline said. “He can pull himself in and out of the water. He can put on flippers and kick his legs and move his arms. He was ready to jump off the edge if someone grabbed him. As a mother, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable taking him around the water because he’s safer and happier, which makes me happy.”
Kemp and his team are expanding their research and the Adaptive Swimming program with the goal of implementing similar options to help children with autism safely experience the joys of swimming.
For more information about the Aquatic Occupational Therapy for Children with Autism Study, or to find out if your child qualifies, contact Erika Kemp at Erika.Kemp@osumc.edu.