Benefits of Swimming for Children with Autism


Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a developmental disability that usually is noticed around the third year of life. Symptoms vary widely across the spectrum but generally include engaging in repetitive behaviors, and having difficulties with communication and social interactions. It affects all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups. One in 68 children born in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released findings based on 2010 surveillance data.

Parents are often the first to notice the symptoms, such as when a child doesn't make eye contact, according to the nonprofit Autism Speaks. Concerned parents shouldn't panic, but they should have a talk with their family pediatrician.

(Sydney Lupkin, Good Morning America) 

How Swimming Can Benefit Children With Autism and Other Special Needs

Children with autism can usually do anything neurotypical children can as long as they have proper guidance. It helps to recognize how an activity like swimming can benefit kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The benefits to teaching special needs children swimming range from gross motor to cognitive skills, to muscle strength and endurance and improvement in overall communication skills. Swimming fosters courage, confidence, trust and helps to develop friendships. It’s great for socialization and relaxation.


Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children and adults on the autism spectrum. According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning accounted for approximately 90% of total U.S. reported deaths in children with an ASD under the age of 14. Although water safety and drowning prevention is important for every child to learn, children on the autism spectrum are at higher risk because they may seek isolation by fleeing to unfamiliar territories, says Dr. Varleisha Gibbs, OTD, OTR/L. In addition, most are naturally drawn to the water. Learning how to swim along with learning vital water safety skills can serve to save lives and prevent drowning.


Besides drowning prevention and water safety, parents report other side effects from learning how to swim, including improved speech and cognitive function. According to an article published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology, water is a soothing environment that emphasizes gentle and repetitive motion. For children on the autism spectrum, the water on the body has a calming effect and reduces any enervating noises. Parents notice that pool time helps students cope with everyday stresses outside of the water as well.


According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), swimming can help children on the autism spectrum improve speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing. While these children are often excluded from other sports because there are too many elements to focus on, being underwater can provide them with alone time where he or she doesn’t have to anticipate a ball being passed to them or be responsible for the success of a team. Swimming provides an excellent opportunity for parallel play and for a child to be in the play environment but to interact at a level that is comfortable for them.

(As cited from Texas Swim Academy)

Jump Start Swimming Lessons 

Jump Start Swimming provides lessons to children with special needs such as Autism by offering lessons that are customized for each student’s emotional and developmental capabilities whether that student has special needs or not. With each child a goal is set of helping him or her become physically active and learn the life-saving skill of swimming. 

Three Fun Exercise Ideas for Those Living with a Disability

For those dealing with a physical disability, the idea of exercise may seem daunting or even impossible. Not only can exercise be a scary prospect for someone with a disability (pain, fear of failure, etc.) but many feel as if they will be limited to the point that it’s not even worth it. What’s the point of making an attempt at physical activity if it’s going to be so incredibly boring?

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get a good amount of exercise that aren’t that limiting to those with a disability. Here are some great options.


Any list of fun, moderately strenuous exercises for those with a disability must begin with swimming. Water allows people with all sorts of physical disabilities the chance to do things that they cannot do on land. Swimming not only has physical benefits but it can also be a great stress-reliever and method of finding relaxation for those who may also have mental health disorders.

“Swimming is particularly valuable for people with disabilities, since the water allows them to move without assistance, an important discovery and experience for anyone with a disability,” notes “Swimming has a very high psychological and therapeutic value for people with disabilities since the buoyancy relieves the strain on the body, allows them to move without assistance and stimulates all vegetative functions.”


Gardening is well-known for its therapeutic value, as it’s one of the best stress-relieving and mood-enhancing hobbies you can participate in. But did you know that gardening can actually provide a pretty solid workout - even for those with disabilities?

“There are many ways you can alleviate or reduce some of the physical challenges that come with the territory, regardless of whether you suffer from arthritis, back pain or are confined to a wheelchair,” notes HGTV.

There is plenty of adaptive gardening equipment that makes it easier for those with disabilities to participate, including adaptive shears, rakes, and digging equipment. Those that have trouble kneeling can use short stools. Gardening is set up well for sitting on the ground and working, so it meshes well for those with lower body disabilities. The upper body and aerobic workout provided by many of the essential gardening tasks can burn upwards of 300 calories per hour - as much as walking!

Adaptive sports

If you think that traditional sports - from solo to team to even extreme - are off limits to you because you have a disability, then think again. Advances in technology have opened the door wide to those with disabilities who want to experience the thrill of sport.

If you live in a big city, it’s highly likely that there are dozens of adaptive sports leagues for sports like basketball, volleyball, tennis, hockey, and handball. Adaptive sports are basically traditional sports that have been altered in some way - either in terms of rules or equipment involved - to accommodate those with disabilities.

And when it comes to more extreme sports like surfing, skiing, and watersports (kayaking, canoeing, etc.) there is a lot of equipment out there to help.

When it comes to getting the recommended amount of physical activity, your disability is only as much of a hindrance as you let it be. There are plenty of interesting, thrilling exercise options out there if you are willing to do a little bit of research and invest in some tech/supplies. You’ll find that, with exercise, you will see a boost not only to your physical health, but to your mental wellness as well.

Written By: Travis White (