Water has many healing qualities but have you considered aquatic therapy for your autistic child? Clinicians who have studied aquatic therapy reported a substantial increase in swim skills, attention, muscle strength, balance, tolerating touch, initiating/maintaining eye contact and water safety. Studies have also shown that children who exercise at least 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week, saw a reduction in hyperactivity, self-harm and injury, aggression, and destructiveness, and repeated self-stimulatory behaviors that are often associated with children on the spectrum. Here are three ways that swimming can act as a form of therapy for children with autism:
1. Water is comforting: Any physical activity in the water can help relax muscles and ease tension. Water reduces body weight and therefore decreases the stress and impact on the body — which is great for children who sometimes feel like their own body is too much to handle. Many children are even able to tolerate touch much better after aquatic therapy.
2. Social Skills: Group swimming can promote social skills. Swimming lessons allow children to interact with their teacher as well as other students/parents in the class building skills that can be used in alternative situations.
3. Improve focus: Simply taking a class can help improve attention span and learning. Being in a learning environment that allows for physical movement will help for future moments in the classroom. Blowing bubbles in the water and learning to regulate their breath can also improve oral articulation.
4. Better Balance: Aquatic therapy helps strengthen muscles, which increases balance and develops better range of motion.
As an added benefit, your child could become a better swimmer who is less at risk near water and it allows for a fun activity with your child. With summer fast approaching, let’s plan for some pool time!