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Effects of a swim program for children with autism spectrum disorder on skills, interest, and participation in swimming

Lisa Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS, Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR-L, Margaret C. Harrington, MOT, OTR-L, Christy Ann Oxley, MOT, OTR-L


The purpose of this study was to determine if a sensory-based, learn-to-swim program improved swim skills and increased physical activity of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Forty-two children with ASD (39 male/three female) participated in eight, 30-minute Sensory Supported Swimming© lessons. Researchers tested swim skills at the first and last lessons and parents completed surveys about their children. Results indicated parents felt their children were more physically active both during swim lessons and outside lessons. Children had increased interest in swimming, and parents planned to begin or increase family swimming activities. Swim skills of all children improved, 74 percent improved at least one level. The learn-to-swim program with sensory supports was effective in improving swim skills and increasing physical activity of children with ASD.


disability, physical activity, sensory preferences, recreational therapy, water safety

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