April is Autism Awareness Month; a nationwide effort started by the Autism Society to promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible. First launched in 1972, Autism Awareness Month focuses on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.
Drowning is one of the top causes of death among autistic children. According to recent studies, children with autism are 160 times more likely than their neurotypical counterparts to drown, both non fatally and fatally. Learning to swim in a specially tailored program is the first step in ensuring that children with autism feel comfortable and secure in and around water.
British Swim School’s Special Abilities Program
Following the mantra, ‘Survival of the Littlest,’ the British Swim School team is dedicated to teaching water survival skills to individuals of every age and ability. In fact, our aquatics program was initially designed with special abilities in mind back in 1981!
Our Special Abilities program takes our traditional British Swim School methods and incorporates them into a specially designed program, allowing us to work with any swimmer to help them feel comfortable and safe in the water. Bottom line: we focus on what they can do instead of what they cannot do. The swim instructor will work one-on-one with each student to acclimate the student to the water with sensory play activities while working on an introduction to skills that will be used in the next level(s). By working one-on-one with each student, we can tailor their learning experiences to align with their abilities and learning style, ultimately aiming to assimilate the student into the traditional program once they’re ready!
What Kind of Training do our Instructors Receive?
Before teaching Special Abilities lessons, any swim instructor must complete specialized training that teaches them how to engage with swimmers with special abilities, such as autism, and how to adapt the British Swim School program to meet their needs. In addition, British Swim School provides swim instructors with basic sign language training so that they may stay true to the British Swim School goal and engage with children of all abilities.
Research has proven that the use of sign language or communication systems other than spoken language will enhance an individual’s ability to communicate. It is imperative to provide each child with a way to communicate whether the spoken words come, or not.
Many children with autism have been able to learn and communicate successfully via sign language because it is visually based, unaided, and provides a mode of quick communication. Additionally, it is something that can be easily learned and used anywhere, at any time.
Sign language reduces frustration by providing a way to expressively communicate in situations where verbal communication may not be successful. Sign language breaks down communication barriers for children with various disabilities and needs.
If you have a child or loved one with special abilities, we would love to discuss your water safety needs and how we can help. Our Special Abilities program is offered at select locations. Please contact your local British Swim School for more information!