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Top 5 autism tips for professionals: teaching swimming

Amy Webster, Active for Autism Coordinator at the National Autistic Society, gives us her top 5 tips on teaching autistic people to swim. 

Although the following tips are intended specifically for swimming instructors, much of the advice here can be applied to sports and physical activity coaches in general.

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Author: Amy Webster

Top 5 tips

Teaching swimming

1. Make your communication clear, concise and direct. Autistic people communicate in different ways and many find eye contact difficult. Try to accompany verbal instructions with a demonstration.

2. Reduce distractions and adopt a low arousal environment to reduce anxiety and aid concentration.

3. Swimming pools can be a difficult environment for participants with certain sensory differences. Ensure you check for sensory aversions and provide sensory aids such as ear plugs, goggles and swimming caps where possible.

4. Your participants may have a limited sense of danger; it would help to have a strict structure in place for getting your participants into the leisure centre, to the changing rooms and out to the pool. This structure can be reinforced with the use of visual timetables or Social Stories.

5. Take a staggered approach to the amount of people in each session where possible. If you can start with a quiet pool, and over time gradually introduce more people into the sessions then this may help participants get used to the different sounds and sensory stimuli during the sessions.

These top tips are meant only as a very general guide to what to think about. You can find further information on this subject below.

Further reading

Active for Autism

Activity leaders and sports instructors: a guide to autism

Date added: 29 March 2016