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A Brief Autism Overview And Swim Teaching

In their article “Brief Autism Overview” Swimming Lesson Ideas.com give a very useful list (despite it's typos) of things that you should do if you are teaching Autistic students. Having taught a lot of students that I have been told fall into the Autistic Spectrum I wanted to add my thoughts.

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I do not remember ever actually changing my method of teaching for such students. Changing the way I talk to students to help them understand has always been one of my teaching principals. I always assume that if a student is not getting what I want them to do it is my fault, not theirs. In that, if they are not understanding what I am asking them to do, it is because I am asking in a way that they don't understand and I have to change the way I am asking. This applies as much to neurotypical students as autistic ones.

I remember being asked by another swim teacher “What is wrong with them (referring to her students), why don't they just do what I ask”? To which I replied: “They are not the problem you are, try a different way of asking them what you want them until you find a description they understand and respond to”.

The point the article makes about talking to the parents is a very important one. Most parents of Autistic children that are not in denial, know exactly what their child will and will not respond to. You may have to modify your class a little to accommodate them but it will be worth it.

The most important point the article makes is to make sure you stick to the routine. This should be easy for a swimming class as most classes are all about routine or at least should be. Depending on the child they may take a while to get used to the class but as long as you are doing the same thing every lesson and give them plenty of warning and reminders when you are going to change an activity most autistic students will excel.

Image viewed from underneath a child with their face in the water hands by their side kicking: A Brief Autism Overview in swim teaching
Teaching An Autistic, Is There A Difference?

For that matter, if you want to be a really good teacher of swimming, you should be talking to all the parents of your students. You will always find out very useful things that will make your class much easier. In fact, this point is so important that I am convinced that if you are doing this sometimes and perhaps all of the time, it is better not to know there is a diagnosis at all. That way you practically eliminate the chance of labeling any child.

besides sll that the PDF the article links to is very good reading for all swim teachers regardless of weather you teach an Austitic or not.


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