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Making Waves: Helping Children with Autism Enjoy Swimming

By: Centria Autism / 26 Jun 2024

Swimming Tips for Children With Autism

As the weather warms up, families everywhere are heading to pools, lakes and beaches for relief from the heat. This summer activity, a staple for many during warm weather months, can present challenges for children diagnosed with ASD.  

Navigating an environment that offers new sensory surroundings can be difficult for children with autism. Here are some tips to help make your swimming trip enjoyable for your child. 

Start Small by Introducing Swimming Ahead of Time

Preparation ahead of time can help your child with autism feel more comfortable with swimming in a pool or at the beach. By introducing the concept of swimming and the feel of sand and water ahead of time, your child can feel more comfortable when you go on an outing. 

  • Talk to your child ahead of time about where you are heading and answer any of their questions. You could create a visual schedule to help your child understand what to expect.
  • Read books on or show pictures of pools, lakes, beaches, etc. to familiarize your child with the environment.
  • Gradually introduce water, sand, or other sensory elements related to swimming with your child in an environment they are comfortable in, such as the home. This could include sand-based sensory tables, outdoor water games, or taking a bath in swimwear.

Consider Your Child's Sensory Needs 

Swimming activities offer a variety of new sensory experiences. From textures such as water and sand to sounds like waves, crowds of people, splashing, these additional sensory inputs can be difficult for some children with autism. 

You know your child best. Consider your child's unique needs when planning a trip to the water. Things to consider include: 

  • Swimwear - does your child prefer tight fitting clothes or something more loose? Choose a bathing suit option that best suits your child's preferences to assist with their comfort in an new environment
  • Ear protection - if your child dislikes the feeling of water in their ears or has an aversion to sound, consider bringing earplugs or headphones on your outing. 
  • Water temperature - where possible, consider altering the water temperature to a level your child is familiar and comfortable with. 

Always ensure that an adult is supervising your child to keep them safe around bodies of water. Swimming can be an enjoyable experience for children with autism with the right planning and preparation. We hope these tips help you and your child have the best summer swimming yet!


If you believe your child may have autism, Centria Autism is there to provide guidance and support every step of the way

If you believe your child may have autism, Centria Autism is there to provide guidance and support every step of the way

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