Swimming with Autism
Learning to swim can be a challenge at the best of times but for a child with autism it brings a whole new level of challenges. We’ve been speaking to Owen and his dad Liam about their learn to swim journey in the hope that it will encourage other families in similar situations to take the leap (or dive) into lessons, so they too can see the benefits.
Owen first started swimming at a local club aged six. The family were going on holiday in the summer and wanted Owen to be able to enjoy the pool without a fear of the water. The club helped and Owen became confident at playing in the water and he was able to remove his armbands. Shortly after lockdown, Liam enrolled Owen at Places Leisure as he wanted to progress even further.
“Swimming is a life skill we believe every child should learn. Owen loves the water. He is autistic and has some moderate learning difficulties but, he enjoys swimming and I enjoy seeing him put effort into something he enjoys and seeing him achieve. He struggles in so many aspects of his learning and it’s nice to see him excel at something.” Liam, Owen’s dad.
We also asked Owen what he liked about his swimming lessons, here is what he said
What do you love about your swimming lessons?
I love learning to swim and the stickers that Rachael gives me.
What is your favourite activity you do in lessons?
I like butterfly the most.
Have you been swimming anywhere else outside of your lessons?
I swim at school with my friends.
Are there any other water-based activities you would like to try?
I would like to try snorkelling on my holiday and my dad said when I'm a more confident swimmer I can try diving. (Owen has also tried kayaking in a local lake which he enjoyed very much!)
Have you made any new friends at swimming lessons?
Yes, JJ is my swimming lesson friend.
Your swimming teacher, Rachael, is really pleased with the progress you’ve made. What thing are you most proud of achieving in swimming so far?
I'm most proud that I can swim from one end of the pool to the other without touching the floor.
And what swimming thing would you really like to be able to learn in the future?
Diving and swimming underwater.
Rachael, Owen’s swimming teacher, said, “Owen has stunned me and his family with his determination, enthusiasm and resilience. His hard work has seen him achieve his stages 1, 2 and 3 plus his 5 metre and 10 metre awards in just 6 months. Owen and his family are now looking forward to a family holiday where Owen can show off his new skills in the pool. Well done, Owen, we’re all really proud of you.”
Until now, Owen has been supported in the water by his dad, Liam. Rachael and Liam are now looking to move Owen into independent swimming lessons. Owen is nervous about swimming without Liam, enjoying the time they get to spend together, but Liam is confident that once Owen starts, he will soon get into the swing of it and enjoy the lessons just as much as he does at the moment.
Owen’s younger brother, Isaac, is also taking lessons with Places Leisure and Owen can’t wait for him to learn so they can both swim together.
If Owen and Liam’s story resonates with you and you would like to find out more about swimming lessons for children with autism, learning difficulties or other disabilities we encourage you to get in touch with your local pool and talk to the staff there. Programmes vary at different pools and there are a number of different approaches that can be taken depending on your individual requirements.