As a mom with a child who has Autism, I have been worried about Lil Man’s love of water.  Over the years I have seen so many missing children alerts about an autistic youth gone missing.  And almost every case the child has been found dead in a body of water.  Lil Man has no fear of water but he also didn’t know how to swim.  This was a huge problem for me as I shared in TheDanger of Water.  So I started searching.


swimming & autism tips


When it comes to teaching a child with Autism how to swim, you can not simply just walk into the nearest swim school and start.  The truth of the matter is most instructors do not know how to deal with our needs.  Not to mention that a pool full of loud excited kids will be extremely overwhelming for our kiddos if not at least distracting. So what do you do?



Here are a few tips from my research and experience:

  • Qualified Instructors. Qualified does not mean certified in water safety only.  But training in special needs/education is key as our kids learn differently and have different needs.  A teacher who can handle their behavior in an appropriate and safe way for both them and your child.
  • Private Lessons Only. I made many phone calls asking if their facility offered Special Needs Swim Lessons and almost all said: “no, but he’s welcome to join our class.”  Don’t do it!  One on one instruction is vital for our kid’s safety.  This allows the instructor to give all their attention to your child and meet their demands: sign language, PICS, stemming or even aggression.
  • Don’t Force It. Our kiddos learn and progress at their own rate.  Swimming is no different. With kiddos who have Autism, if you force anything on them, you can cause regression and make the situation worse.  A knowledgeable instructor will know when to push and when to back off.
  • Repetition. This isn’t just the good old ‘try, try again’ but keeping our kids comfortable.  Many thrive on routine so keeping the lessons on the same day and time will make it easier for the child.  This also means having the same teacher.  While things do happen, to help your child feel comfortable and safe, having the same instructor each time is key.
  • Stay. While this should go without saying for additional safety by you being present you’re helping your child enjoy the experience.  Knowing you nearby helps keep them at ease.  Lil Man would come over to me to get a quick hug many times during his lessons.  We want this to be a fun and enjoyable experience for them.



In our personal search, we found Kristie Snape.  Ms. Kristie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Interrelated Special Education and experience working with kids with mild to severe including Autism, Asperger’s, Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Emotional/Behavior Disorders, Intellectual Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Rhett’s Syndrome, and Significant Developmental Delays.


swimming & autism tips


Upon meeting Kristie, she developed a report with both of my kids.  She offered to help DIVA too as she was afraid about getting her face wet.  In just two lessons, she was holding her breath underwater with no fear.  In a few weeks time, Kristie had DIVA floating, jumping into the pool and even practicing diving in.


Lil Man was easier to get into the water but didn’t have the concept of if your face goes into the water, you can’t breathe.  Kristie started slowly with him and getting used to her being there to help him and getting him to hold his breath before going under.   In just 10 lessons, Kristie had Lil Man floating and swimming forward.



Knowing that my children can survive falling into water is a great peace of mind.  I find that when we go to the pool, I’m much more relaxed and able to enjoy the time with the kids instead of this constant worry.


If you are in Georgia I highly recommend you look into Neverland Aquatics.  Regardless of your student’s disability, all of their Adaptive Lessons are completely individualized for each student. Based on the Red Cross Learn-to-Swim curriculum and tailored to meet their needs. Starting with critical safety and survival skills and building to stroke instruction.  Neverland Aquatics also offers swim team and fitness classes which improve motor planning, coordination, and efficiency in the water.


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Stephanie is the owner and author of The Autism Diva - a blog that focuses on Travel, Lifestyle, Family and Autism. The Autism Diva is listed among Top Disney Blogs, Top Mommy Bloggers, Ultimate Bloggers List and was a 2018 WEGO Health Nominee for BEST KEPT SECRET. Stephanie values family first and enjoys travel, food, and wine. Her family currently lives outside Boston, MA with ties in Atlanta, GA.

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