How Swimming Therapy Can Help Children with Autism
At We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Tarzana, we see firsthand everyday how important exercise is for children — especially children on the spectrum. It helps them get their energy out, focus and learn about their body, and can improve everything from digestion and sleep schedules to anxiety.
In fact, studies have 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 (Voom). All of our We Rock the Spectrum gyms offer special classes and sensory-safe equipment that better help children play and exercise. But another such activity that provides a unique experience to children — especially where sensory is concerned — is swimming. Research has proved time and again that water is an ideal medium for body rehabilitation or exercise. Here are three ways that swimming can act as a form of therapy for children with autism:
1. Water Soothes & Comforts
Any physical activity in water can help relax muscles and decrease stress. 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. Water provides a safe environment for children to learn how to regulate the force their body exerts when playing or working. The comforting hydrostatic pressure of the water relaxes them while they play. Many children are able to tolerate touch better after aquatic therapy.
2. Group Swimming Promotes Better Social Skills
Group swimming sessions can help children greatly with developing social skills. Giving children the opportunity to engage with their instructor as well as other children in their class lets them learn how to share toys and participate in cooperative and competitive play. Swimming can be a public activity and many people can participate, which will help autistic children become more comfortable with social situations and other people. This will build their self-confidence and help them with interpersonal relationships.
3. Learning to Swim Improves… Learning!
Swimming and swimming lessons can help improve children’s attention span, concentration, impulse control, and ability to follow directions. It requires lots of energy and can decrease hyperactivity, which will help children to concentrate on tasks afterwards. And if you think the list ends there, listen up! Swimming can even help children who have autism with speech. Blowing bubbles in the water and learning to regulate their breath can improve oral articulation.
Dina Kimmel, the CEO and Founder of We Rock the Spectrum, has been taking her son Gabriel, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and her daughter Sophia to Daniella for swim lessons for years. Daniella is a longtime child educator in the San Fernando Valley. She taught kindergarten and elementary school classes in Tarzana and Woodland Hills for over ten years in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She has over 20 years of teaching experience as a swim instructor for young children and toddlers.
Daniella has a gift for teaching ALL children how to swim. “Swimming is a great form of therapy for children on the spectrum. Their bodies become very relaxed in the water. It’s truly wonderful to watch them feeling so accomplished after they master the basic skills.”
For those of you who are looking for something to do outside of the pool, don’t worry! Daniella is also the instructor for our We Rock the Spectrum camps. Even when she’s not around, come enjoy our special sensory-safe equipment at the gym that encourages your child to play and exercise, which is often the best kind of therapy!
Daniella teaches swimming year around and can be reached for private and group lessons at 818-438-1510. You can also come by the gym for more information.