Many children on the autism spectrum are naturally drawn to and fascinated by water. And while this is a source of a lot of anxiety for many parents of autistic children, it can also be a good thing. That’s because being in the water is extremely beneficial for autistic children. And the benefits aren’t just physical.
Yes, learning to swim is an important skill for children on the autism spectrum to learn for self-protection, but it also can boost their overall wellbeing. For a great overview of the benefits of swimming for autistic children, take a look at this comprehensive guide on aquatic therapy. And here are a few specific ways swimming makes a positive impact on their lives:
Helps to calm and relax. Being in the water can calm and relax children on the autism spectrum in two ways. First, as LiveStrong.com notes, the “gentle and repetitive motion” required for swimming along with the water’s soothing qualities can bring on a sense of calm. Second, as the article states, “swimming fast helps kids work out frustrations and feelings of anger.” The extra bonus is that getting exercise in the pool will release endorphins that will make them feel more positive.
Improves quality of life. Many autistic children also have sensory processing issues but swimming can help them overcome those issues. The U.S. National Library of Medicine presents information from a study of occupational therapists who found using hydrotherapy with their autistic patients helped them increase their “toleration of touch, initiation and maintenance of eye contact, and social participation.” The study concludes that these results may lead to “holistic effects,” which help autistic children create better relationships.
Helps develop self-confidence and self-esteem. The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation notes that many sports are difficult for autistic children because they require them to focus on several different factors at once. Because swimming is an individual sport, it is much easier for a child on the autism spectrum to feel like they are fully participating. The excellent result is that they get a self- esteem boost. As the article puts it, “swimming offers an autistic child success no matter what the outcome."
Lowers severity of symptoms. In this video, the mother of an autistic child describes the many ways swimming has benefited her son. She explains that in addition to being a stimulating activity for him it has also helped him develop self-control.
Swimming is a valuable skill for every child. But its additional benefits for children on the autism spectrum can’t be denied. Through experiencing the joy of swimming, autistic kids can be happier and healthier.
This article is a guest contribution from Vee Cecil. Vee is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. She is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
SASSNA has only conducted a general review of the article for appropriateness. SASSNA has not verified statements in the article, and SASSNA does not endorse or warranty statements in the article.