Sensory Supported Swimming

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.

Sensory supported swimming: teaching swimming and water safety to children with autism spectrum disorders

A swimming and water safety program for children ages 4 to 17 with autism spectrum disorders

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

Watch Video: Through an grant, the KU Department of Occupational Therapy Education has developed a program that teaches children with autism how to swim.


Lisa Mische Lawson, Phd, CTRS (Director) is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She has 20 years of experience in developing and managing recreation programs for individuals with disabilities.

Jane Cox, MS, OTR/L (Co-director) is an occupational therapist with more than 20 years experience serving children with special needs. Jane has had previous experience as a lifeguard and swim instructor.

Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L (Co-director) is an occupational therapist whose clinical work addresses the participation needs of children and adolescents with ASD. Lauren swam competitively from grade school through college and has coached all levels of swimmers.

Julie D'Adamo (Instructor) is a preschool teacher in Overland Park, Kan. She holds certifications in Aquatic Exercise Association and lifeguard training, and has taught swim lessons for 5 years.

Megan Mazurowski (Instructor) is a first-year OT student at KU. She is a former high school competitive swimmer and has 4 years of experience in teaching swimming to children.

Dana Tolle (Instructor) is a second-year OT student at KU. She has taught and coached swimming for more than 10 years including 3 years of experience as a para-educator for children with ASD.

Rami Ibrahim (Assistant Instructor) is a first-year OT student at KU. He has experience teaching swimming skills to children with special needs participating in the Special Olympics program.

Sarah Peterson (Assistant Instructor) is a first-year OT student at KU. Sarah has experience working with children with ASD in pediatric therapy clinics.

Julia Icenogle (Instructor/Support Staff) is an OT doctoral student at KU. She has 3 years of experience in working with children and adolescents with ASD in recreational and academic settings.

Interested in becoming a swim instructor? Please contact the program

Last modified: Jul 25, 2014

Make a gift

Hoping to reach more families with this program, KU is looking to develop an instructor training program for Sensory Supported Swimming. Help by donating online (enter your amount for "Department of Occupational Therapy" designation and include "Sensory Supported Swimming" in the special instructions field). Make a gift now!

Media coverage

Swimming Program Teaches Children with Autism Skills to Save Their Own Lives. Fox 4 Kansas City

KU OT students from work with children in sensory supported swim program at the Fairway City Swimming Pool. Facebook photo gallery

Fairway pool home to special swimming program for kids with autism spectrum disorders. Prairie Village Post

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