Health & You: Autism and Swimming

drpool-med-bookWhat is autism? Autism affects each person differently and as such, treatments may work on some better than others. One such effective treatment is exercise. Exercise comes in many forms – running, biking, swimming and more. Exercise offers many benefits such as increased respiration and circulation.

Autism is different for everyone; because of this different people respond differently to various treatment options available.

  1. Autism – Signs and Symptoms
  2. Treatment of Autism
  3. Benefits of Swimming with Autism

bluecrossAutism – Signs and Symptoms

Autism is a developmental disability which affects development of a person’s social interaction and communication. Autistic Spectrum Disorder is also referred to as Pervasive Developmental Disorders. ASDs are developmental disabilities that are caused by a brain abnormality.

Those who have Autism tend to rely on a set of behaviors and resist major changes to their daily routine. Family members of those who have autism have said that if the person knows a change is coming, they will need time to prepare for the change. Autistic children like predictability and routine. Predictability and doing things in a certain order make autistic children feel more comfortable, which is why change can be a stressful event.

Because Autism is a wide-spectrum disorder, there are no set of symptoms that everyone shares. No two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms as each other. Some may have mild symptoms while others may have more severe symptoms. Autism affects several personality traits and characteristics in affected persons.

One such affected area is social skills. Those afflicted with autism interact with others differently than those without symptoms. Autism can cause a child to be socially clumsy, offensive with comments, or to not seem interested in others around them. Even those who are close with someone that has autism may receive little eye contact or direct interaction. However, in many cases, the importance of eye contact can be taught.

Speech can also be affected by Autism. Many children who have Autism may not even speak at all, or speak very little, while others may repeat words or phrases they hear. This is known as echolalia. Speech is generally more formal as well, with careful word choices.

bluecrossTreatment of Autism

Treatment for each case of Autism is different, simply because each case and individual is unique. Intervention includes behavioral treatment, medicine or a combination of both. Early behavioral intervention can help improve learning and communication skills with children.

Good examples of early intervention programs include guided therapy with objectives, a focus on communication as well as social skills, a structured therapeutic activity, while including parents with the intervention programs.

There is evidence that some people with Autism progress, so much in fact, that they can no longer fit the criteria for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and there are several possible explanations for this. Theories include that a child matures out of specific types of autism, or simply they were misdiagnosed. It is unknown if any significant improvements stem from early intervention.

Even though there is no known cure, options can help deal with the challenges that are associated with Autism. No single treatment method is a ‘one size fits all’ to be used for everyone, and each treatment should be fit specifically to each case. Treatment should begin as early as possible.

bluecrossBenefits of Swimming with Autism

Autistic children can benefit greatly from physical activity. Some of these benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease as an adult, increasing attention span, giving an opportunity for social interaction with others, and easing behaviors that are repetitive.

How does swimming ease repetitive behaviors as well as help in the long run? It is believed that swimming – using your arms and legs and focusing on using your body to float can distract from repetitive behaviors, while providing exercise. A child with autism can really concentrate and enjoy the fun of swimming around the water, and if with friends or others, can also ease into social situations and become more open to others.

Swimming in water – or any physical activity in water can help relax muscles and decrease stress. The energy needed to swim about and play in the water helps in decreasing hyperactivity, which in turn helps the child concentrate on tasks and improve sleep.

Swimming pools allow autistic children to expend their energy in a positive way, and afterwards to have more attention and concentration.

Because swimming is a public activity, many people can participate and be near each other, which in turn will allow autistic children to become comfortable with social situations and other people. As a result, there is an increase in self-confidence in addition to an increase in maintaining eye contact. Children learn how to engage with others and hold a positive mental attitude and outlook.

Physical activity can be good for children who have autism, and swimming is an activity that is especially helpful because of all of the benefits that come with being in a pool. Aquatic activities can lead to a happier mind and a healthier body, all the while teaching social and cognitive skills.

Dr. Pool

Dr. Pool


[1] Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Autism? What Causes Autism?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 1 Sept. 2008. Web.

[2] “How Is Autism Treated?” Autism Speaks. Web.

[3] “Treatment Options.” Autism Society. Web.

[4] “Autism and Swimming: Children with Autism Can Benefit From Physical Activity.” Activities for Children with Autism and the Benefits of Physical Activity. Web.

[5] “6 Reasons to Try Aquatic Therapy for Autism.” Hear Our Voices Blog on Everything Autism. 7 Mar. 2012. Web.



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