According to a study managed by Gouhua Li of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are 160 times as likely to die from drowning as children without the condition. They are known to wander and don’t recognize swimming pools or bodies of water as the hazards they can be. “Once a child is diagnosed with autism, usually between 2 years and 3 years of age, pediatricians and parents should immediately help enroll the child in swimming classes, before any behavioral therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Swimming ability for kids with autism is an imperative survival skill,” Li said.
The Kennedy Center, which is based in Trumbull and has children with ASD among its clients, recently launched “Healing Waters Swim Lessons” at the Stratford YMCA. Ariel Gagliardo, supervisor of therapeutic services at the center, said, “Thirteen participants signed up for the program. It is unbelievable how much confidence these children have gained from the experience. We successfully turned these nonswimmers into water enthusiasts.”
Martin D. Schwartz, president and CEO of The Kennedy Center, said, “There is no other program like ‘Healing Waters’ in the region and I commend our amazing staff for designing such an innovative program.”
The next sessions are scheduled from Sept. 16 to Oct. 21 and then Oct. 28 to Dec. 9. More information is available from Karin Guariglia, a registered occupational therapist who teaches the swim classes, at 203-332-4535, ext. 258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.