Swimming can be a great physical outlet and life-saving skill for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In addition to promoting health, swimming reduces stereotypic behaviors and increases social behaviors of some children facing these challenges.
Partnering with Autism Speaks, the KU Department of Occupational Therapy Education developed the Sensory Supported Swimming program to teach swimming and water safety to children with ASD. To promote successful learning, instructors combine evidence-based teaching methods with sensory strategies matched to the unique needs of each child. Each session consists of eight 30-minute lessons. Individual and small group lessons are available to meet the learning needs of children.
For information about program costs, location, scheduling and more, contact email@example.com
Above: Through an grant, the KU Department of Occupational Therapy Education has developed a program that teaches children with autism how to swim. Watch video
Lisa Mische Lawson, Ph.D., CTRS, is director of the Sensory Supported Swimming program and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She has more than 20 years of experience in developing and managing recreation programs for individuals with disabilities. Mische Lawson is active in the swim community as a US Master's swimmer with KC Blazers Masters.
Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L, an adjunct faculty member, continues to support the program as a consultant from her position as a pediatric occupational therapist in Washington, D.C. Foster swam competitively from grade school through college and has coached all levels of swimmers.
Interested in becoming a swim instructor? Please contact the program firstname.lastname@example.org.
Selected Resources and Recent Publications
Navigating swim lessons for kids with and without disabilities
Authored by KU's Lauren Foster, this article offers the ins and outs of navigating swimming and swim lessons. While examples of children with disabilities are provided, these solutions apply to all children. Read
Mische Lawson, L. (2014, June). Supporting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Swimming and Recreation. American Therapeutic Recreation Association Webinar Series H: Autism I. Available for purcahse at ATRA-online.org.
Mische Lawson, L., Foster, L., Strode, M., & Weller, C. (2014). Effects of a swim program for children with autism spectrum disorder on skills, interest, and participation in swimming. American Journal of Recreational Therapy, (3)2, 17-27.
Foster, L., Cox, J., & Mische-Lawson, L.; Englert Shutrump, S.; and Lutman, A. (2014), Staying in sight: Addressing children’s mental health and safety. OT Practice, 19(6), 8–13. http://dx.doi.org/10.7138/otp.2014.196f1 (I)
Mische Lawson, L., Cox, J., & Foster, L. (2013). Swimming as a physical activity for children with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptional parent, 43(3).
Franken, L., Mische Lawson, L., & Santalucia, S. (2013, April). Aquatics: Promoting quality of life, health and wellness. OT Practice. 16-21.