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Why Autistic Children Need to be Taught to Swim

Swimming child

Parents of autistic children should take care to ensure their young ones are taught to swim properly, due to a rather alarmingly high level of drowning. In truth, I believe all children should be taught to swim, both in a swimming pool and an ocean, in order to efficiently be able to understand the effects of buoyancy. Different levels of salt in the water also come in handy for this very reason. Furthermore, because it is not necessarily a swimming pool alone that can pull an individual to his or her death, it might be prudent to go swimming in lakes and even ponds, to get a feel of what life can throw at you at any given moment.

Reasons why a child should learn to swim overall

  • Great exercise- recreational swimming is a low-impact workout
  • Helps you relax
  • Helps you feel good about yourself
  • Competitive swimming can give you a major workout
  • Gives you a thrill
  • Raises adrenaline and gets your heart pumping
  • Tones muscles
  • Builds strength
  • Helps maintain a healthy heart and lungs
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves body posture

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What prompted this particular post? The latest news about the drowning of Avonte Oquendo brought me to a halt. It is not the first news piece I read about an autistic child drowning. The 14 year old autistic boy who disappeared from school in the middle of the day three months ago was found and identified, with news reports headlining the story for the last two days. He had walked off on October 4, headed towards the park. He was found on the bank of New York's East River, the remains finally returned home but, this time, without life. The water had drawn him in, just as it captures the interest of so many autistic children, innocent young souls who go missing until they are found drowned in a nearby body of water.

Autism is not your typical disorder. It is most definitely linked to genetics, a fact accentuated by the high prevalence rates in sibling and twin studies. Symptoms are exaggerated within different environments, particularly polluted ones. It is a disorder that is constantly redefined, without any concrete understanding about its causes or cures, if the latter even exists.

But why are autistic children so attracted to water? No one is really sure on this account and sufficient research does not currently exist. Personally I would say that it might be all sensory, appealing to the visual through the glittery look, appealing to the auditory with it's lapping waves and soft hum, and appealing to the tactile with its temperature changes and strange sensations it invokes. According to a 2001 study, persons with autism are seen to have a shorter life expectancy due to their likelihood to run into trouble, somehow somewhere. Drowning and epilepsy are high on the list of causes of death in autism, which was found to be over 3 times more likely in this cohort than the typically functioning control group.

As such, in order to protect your children, particularly the autistic ones prone to wander, it might be a good idea to take them out to a large body of water and provide a few lessons yourself. Furthermore, investing in proper swimming lessons could pay off in the long run. After all, with so many autistic children drowning around the globe, learning to swim might just be the best thing that happened to your little one.