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Autism and Water: Why Individuals with Autism Love the Water

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Water. There is so much beauty in water it's no wonder individuals with autism, especially children, are drawn to it. The sparkling flow when the sunlight hits it, the captivating waves as it ripples, and the transparency of its visual appearance. It's beautiful and we cannot argue with the draw towards water's beauty but why are children with autism so captured by it and why could they play, drink, or look at it for hours?

Autism and Water: The Ultimate Sensory Stimulus

The sensory stimulus of the water is the answer. It's the direct link between autism and water. Water provides multiple sensory stimuli that it is why it's the king (or queen) of sensory feedback.

Let's start with the senses

Sight: The Visual Input

Water is something to look at, isn't it? The colors when light captures the reflection, the movement of the waves, the glistening, and the different array of lights are interesting and captivating to neurotypical individuals so it's a masterpiece to atypical individuals. Watch your child in the bathtub or at the pool, what do you notice?

Auditory: The Sound Vibes

If you use a sound machine to fall asleep do you listen to the ocean waves? Does it calm you? There are more than just ocean waves crashing when you're around water right? Think about the people, the birds, the splashes, the sand, the wind, the diving board, the whistles, and the list goes on and on. The auditory feedback that the pool, lake, river, or ocean provides is endless and entertaining not to mention soothing, especially to atypical children.

Smell: The Olfactory Stimuli

Smell is a powerful tool and depending on what type of water you're around means that the smell maybe vastly different. If you're at the pool then you're probably smelling the chlorine and if you're at the ocean then you're smelling the salty breeze. Children, as well as adults, can tell which type or body of water they are at by the smell which can help them regulate to their environment.

Touch: The Sensation

Last but certainly not least, is touch. The feeling of water, the splash, the coolness, or even the warmth can provide so much tactile feedback. The pressure and the temperature regulation of the water are enough for most children and the constant motion is soothing.

Swimming for the Mind, Body, and Soul

The benefits of water as well as swimming for children with autism is endless. Swimming provides regulation and a coping strategy for anxiety and hyper or hyposensitivity. This article by Autism Parenting discusses the ways that swimming can help your child with their emotions and nervous system, but it also discusses safe-swimming practices.

Swimming needs to be taught, obviously, but most children with autism, tend to catch on rather quickly. I know for my son we placed a safe-swimming vest on and he has really taken well to the water. Water has provided him with a safe space where he can be himself and release energy. There is really nothing better than seeing that huge smile on his



Water Safety

With that said, please know there are risks. Most children with autism don't understand safety and dangerous situations, so there have been many counts of drowning. Please be mindful of this and know how to protect your child around water. If you own a pool make sure you have a gate or some safety device to prevent an accidental drowning. Always make sure the Lifevest is on securely and properly. I always have my eye on my son at the pool or the beach, but I also let the lifeguard know my son is autistic just to make sure and for them to understand that he might not hear the whistle or respond to them calling, and lastly, continue to teach them about safe practices with repetition. (This is my personal experience, please make sure to do your research and talk to your doctor about any other safe water practices).

Enjoy the Water

With that said, let your child enjoy the water. Nature is a beautiful thing and the connection between nature and your child is a magical experience.




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