Autism and The Water

Our title isn’t meant to be clickbait, though we hope it makes you curious.kimfetrow2015_dsc_5680

We’ve said before how we are passionate about involving kids in aquatics programs. And that enthusiasm extends to ALL kids.

Kids and adults of all ages enjoy the water for its therapeutic and soothing qualities. Our bodies operate differently in the water than they do otherwise. One of the reasons aquatic exercise is so great for EVERYONE is that the water requires constant energy- the water is pushing against you and you move without realizing it. Even if you think you are “just playing” your muscles are still engaged and working.

Physical exercise is often easier in the water- which makes aquatic exercise perfect for kids with specials needs, and especially for kids on the Autism Spectrum. Participating in an Aquatics program gives ASD kids a chance to feel normal- and, for kids with body control challenges or audio sensitivities, experiencing the water can be a huge source of relief and gives them a much needed boost of independence. Where it might be very difficult to get any kid off the couch and moving- water exercise is often viewed as play (and we won’t tell them if you don’t! :).

Valerie Brutzman, our Aquatics Director, came to CBRC with a background in running aquatics programs for kids on the autism spectrum. In her previous position she had developed programs and ways to engage ASD and other special needs kids. Val has taken that expertise and begun crafting our very own special needs aquatics program here at Columbia Basin Racquet Club.

Here’s how it works:

Say you’re interested in having a child participate in one of our special needs aquatics programs. First thing you’d do is contact our aquatics department, you can easily do this over the phone or via email. All you have to do is mention that your child is special needs and/or on the Autism Spectrum when you call. We’ll ask about your child’s sensitivities, age, major challenges, experience in the water, and whether they are verbal or non-verbal; all this is so that we can have properly trained staff on hand for your session. At this time we are offering ASD specialized swimming lessons as individual (1:1) lessons and we aim to keep these sessions in the quietest part of the day- usually weekday mornings. We can also accommodate children with Down’s Syndrome, hearing impairments, visual impairments, and other challenges.

One of the benefits of working with special needs kids on a 1:1 basis is that we can throw out the book and the lesson plan. We meet each kid where THEY are at, and work at their own pace. We’re not teaching swim skills in the traditional manner- we start with survival skills and help kids learn water safety. Once kids have learned breath control, float techniques, and other essential safety pieces, then we’ll move on to the ”swim skills” category.

We’re committed to this program for several reasons- not the least of which is an attempt to mainstream children on the spectrum or with other challenges. There should be no reason these kids can’t participate in a fun and safe activity. This is something we believe in and a need we seek to fill in the Tri-Cities community. We also know the importance of physical fitness and how endorphins can positively affect everyone’s life outlook.

If you’d like more information about aquatics programs for ASD or special needs kids, please give us a call and ask for Val. We’ll be happy t o help you.

We wish you good health,

Columbia Basin Racquet Club



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