FAQ: What's the Best Way to Teach My Autistic Toddler to Swim?

Parents ask me: how should I teach my autistic toddler to swim? You teach your autistic toddler to swim the same way you’d teach any child. You can start with tonight’s bath.

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I believe that a child should be in the water at six months. Start with play in the sink and the tub.

They don’t need to learn strokes right away, but you do want them to learn to be comfortable and confident when swimming lessons begin.

Your goal is to help your child develop zero fear of the water. You want your child to feel that getting into a pool is just extended play from the sink and tub. Teaching your child about water safety is also absolutely essential.

Start with water play

Show your child how to blow bubbles into cupped hands in the sink . Show them how to get their chin in water, mouth in the water, and then whole face.

Encourage them to splash and kick around in the bath. Make “rain” in the tub by dripping water on their head. Have them wash their plastic animals in the tub and “teach” the toys to swim.

Teach them to float on their back in the tub, then on their tummy.

Going to a pool

When you go to a pool, there must always be an adult swimming buddy in the water with your child. Consider enrolling your toddler in a learn-to-swim program once they are comfortable being in the water.

Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within an arm’s length. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “You can teach your baby or toddler to love the water. But your child always needs an adult present at all times to prevent drowning.”

Kim Weiss