You may already be aware that people with autism are drawn to the water. However, you may have no idea why! There are so many reasons why water is so stimulating for people will autism, without being overstimulating. Visual stimuli include the ocean’s waves and the calmness of a swimming pool or a lake. The smell of the water is unique and changes with the setting. The sounds of the water are also different, which isn’t surprising since calm water is nothing like the crashing of waves on a shoreline. Add in the feel of the water and how anyone can easily float along the top of it and water really makes an autistic person think without being overstimulated.
You may be shocked that there is something that will not overstimulate a child, or anyone, with autism. But water creates an amazing experience for those with hyperactive senses. This is why a beach vacation is perfect for families with autism. You can spend hours at the beach without needing to worry about your child having a meltdown. They can cool down in the water whenever they get too hot. Overstimulating situations can also be stopped by entering the water for a little fun!
And since you can book your accommodations right on the beach in many destinations, you will never be too far from your room when your family needs some downtime. This is the perfect solution if you know your child needs a quick exit when they become overwhelmed.
As amazing as water truly is for children with autism, it doesn’t mean that your autistic child is going to automatically jump in and have a fabulous time. No, it will most likely take work to get your autistic child to really enjoy the water in all scenarios. But the work will be well worth the effort. Especially once you see your child relax and have fun in swimming pools, lakes, and oceans. When working with clients I make sure that I listen to their needs and as I've noted in my own experience and with other autistic clients a pool or a beach destination is almost always a must!
Check out my podcast episode all about this topic below!!!
How to Create Positive Experiences with Your Autistic Child in the Water
If your autistic child is showing fear around water, there are so many things you can do to help them embrace it.
1. Wear Socks and Shoes
Cotton socks and canvas shoes can help your child enter the water without fear they are going to float away. The weight of the socks and shoes will help keep their feet on the bottom. This is quite helpful when you are starting to introduce your child to the water and want them to feel as safe as possible.
2. Take a Walk in the Water
Sometimes a little walk in the water is all you need to get your child used to the water. You can start by walking in puddles. Then gradually work your way up to walking along the shallow water of the shoreline. As your child gets more comfortable with the water, you can start to walk in further and further. Before you know it, your autistic child will be splashing around, playing, and even swimming!
3. Utilize Social Stories
We all know how important social stories are for people with autism. I recommend using social stories to get your autistic child comfortable with the water. Talk about how water is all around us. They already take showers or baths, so they are used to being in it in some form. It is best to talk about how water is fun and exciting. This will ensure your child knows that they will have an amazing experience every time they are by water.
Water Safety for Autistic Children
As parents, we want our children to love the water. However, we also know that water brings many safety concerns. While you won’t want to scare your child, you must make sure they know how to stay safe when they are around water. This is especially true for autistic children, because they may love the water so much, they won’t think there is anything wrong with them jumping in at any time.
3 Steps to Take to Ensure Your Autistic Child Stays Safe in the Water
1. Always Talk About the Importance of Water Safety with Your Autistic Child
As you are sharing social stories with your autistic child, you should always talk about the importance of water safety. This should include the fact that they should never go into the water without you or another adult. There are many books about this topic available. You can easily find them at local libraries and take them home to read to your child.
2. Connect with an Autism Certified Swim Instructor
We all know that all swim instructors are not certified to work with autistic children, no matter how hard they try. Therefore, I recommend connecting with a swim instructor who has been autism certified. Lessons with this swim instructor will allow your child to learn what they should do if they happen to panic when they are in the water. Your child will also learn how to swim while having fun at the same time.
3. Continue to Work on Swimming Skills
You may think that your autistic child is a fantastic swimmer. But that doesn’t mean they should stop working on their swimming skills. A few swimming lessons scattered throughout the year will ensure they continue to improve their skills.
What You Will Notice as Your Autistic Child Falls in Love with Water
As your autistic child falls in love with water, you will notice so many things. They will gain confidence. They will make new friends during their swimming lessons. And they will be their happiest when they are in the water!
Every time your autistic child is in the water, you will notice the following:
Your child is calm and relaxed – They are able to get rid of frustrations by swimming fast or splashing around. They will also relax, as they feel the water lap over them.
Your child will have a better quality of life – Water will help your child overcome some of their sensory processing issues. This will allow them to enjoy other parts of their life even more.
Your child will be more confident – As your child learns how to swim on their own, they will feel more confident in their abilities to do just about anything.
Your child will have more self-control – The best thing that will come out of your child spending time in the water is the self-control they will learn.
Autistic children love the water, once they have been given the chance to see how wonderful it is. Now that you know how to get your autistic child to love the water, you are going to be more than ready to book a family vacation at the beach!
You can spend time relaxing as a family while leaving all the to-do lists back home. Yes, you will still need to be there when your child needs you, but you will all feel so much more relaxed when you are not running from appointment to appointment. Your days at the beach will be more laid back, as you choose how long you spend at the beach, the pool, and in your room for some downtime.
Are you ready to book your beach vacation?? To learn more about working with me as your travel advisor head here! As a mom of an autistic child, I know how difficult it can be to squeeze one more to-do thing on your list. Plus, my experiences will ensure I understand what you will need and want for your time away from home. I will create the perfect beach vacation for you and your family by asking you specific questions about where you want to go, what you want to do, and what your must-haves are for your autistic child.