Even verbal kids with autism need visuals to make exciting summer activities like swimming at the pool or the beach more fun and safer for everyone involved. Scroll down for tips and lesson ID’s for great examples already in Share that you can edit to your own needs, as well as visual supports for print.
The Excitement Factor
Very few kids with autism are neutral when it comes to swimming. They tend to either adore it, looking forward to trips to the beach or the pool with near religious fervor. Or they’d really rather not, thanks just the same—just the idea makes them anxious. Either way, swimming is a prime example of an activity that becomes far more successful and more enjoyable for everyone involved (both kids and the adults responsible for them) when you have visuals supporting the outing.
But Tommy Has Gotten So Verbal!
Nearly every child with autism benefits hugely from visuals in situations that excite them or make them anxious- even kids who are verbal. There are many theories (but no sure answers) as to why, but strong emotion of any kind seems to make the receptive and expressive language difficulties that are the hallmarks of autism worsen. It is almost as if strong emotion interrupts the connections needed to understand and express verbal language in the brain of a child with autism. Any time strong emotions are involved, visuals become even more important to communicating effectively. And when safety is at stake (as it can be during swimming), doing everything you can to ensure clear communication is vital.
Before the outing, reading a visual story together that familiarizes the child with behavior expectations and answers any questions about the outing’s schedule can make a huge difference in their behavior during the outing. Going over the story when emotions aren’t running high makes it more likely to be understood and absorbed.
Below are a couple of great examples of visual stories used to prepare for swimming that you can easily edit to your own needs by deleting a page here, or adding a page there:
Keep Visuals Handy for Transitions
Once you have established the expected behaviors and the schedule of events, it can be helpful to have a visual schedule stepping through the key tasks and transitions as both a reminder and to help ease transitions. Especially if emotions are running high, a visual schedule is far easier to comprehend than verbal instructions, and therefore more likely to be successful. For examples, check out:
In Case Of Excitement Emergency
It can also be helpful to have tiles of visuals on hand during swimming in case they are needed. You can print and laminate a set to keep in your swim bag, ready to pull out as needed to help with communication at the pool if things get too exciting. Check out this example of an excellent collection put together by a swimming instructor:
I hope all this helps make your summer a little safer and a lot more fun!