Hi all ... I have an eight year old son who is autistic. I have been informed by his school that on the 3rd May he will be required to take part in swimming lessons. I was told by a teacher at his school last year that once the lessons began he would be able to 'opt out' but unfortunately since being told that swimming is now part of the curriculum, and there is no 'opt out' option. Myself and my son were both happy for him not to attend as he had swimming lessons when he was younger and the instructor deemed him unsafe. My son is very a anxious about attending, as he said he is scared of not being able to do what is expected of him and also worried that he will not remember the instructions from the instructor. He has a very short attention span and also struggles to process information, in his words, things go in his brain and out again after 5 seconds. Has anyone got an advice on not only how to prepare him for the lessons but also me. I am so scared for his safety, during his last lessons he kept his head under water for so long I was on the verge of jumping in the pool and also whilst he was waiting for his instructions he started jumping up and down and ended up out of his depth. There were only four in his group when he was younger, now there are going to be 90. Although obviously there will be more adults supervising. I am so worried about this it's actually giving me anxiety attacks and the lessons haven't even began yet. I would be truly grateful for any advice anyone can offer. Thank you in advance. Caz
I personally would ask for a meeting with the school to discuss your concerns. Swimming in a group of 90 does not sound ideal for an autistic child. I don't really see that he should be made to take part if it is possibly going to be unsafe for him. But if they are determined that he cant opt out, they need to put something in place to keep him safe. Such as a member of staff in the water with him to repeat instructions. Or that he begins by only going in the water for a very short time (perhaps before or after the other children have gone in) and see how he manages. This way it might build his confidence up and he may start accessing the rest of the lessons. Schools have massive risk assessments to abide by so they are not going to want to do anything that would be a possible danger for your son. Does he usually get much support in school?
Firstly in response to your schools attitude that swimming is mandatory.
You must write a NOTICE to the Schools' responsible Head Person and Name Him / Her. At the Top of The letter Type Middle of Page "TAKE NOTICE" Big and Bold
TAKE NOTICE dated 10th April 2019 or Whatever date you write.
To Joe or Jane Bloggs I am informed you are , The head of Legal administration , head of the School, or whatever.for Name of School (Get a Named Person)
I am NAS 61992 (Your Name), I am the Mother (I presume) of my Son Full Name of Son, aged 8 d.o.b. ( this will speciify your son exactly) who is in Class whatever. He has a diagnosis of autism see copy of diagnosis attached if you have it.( Use staples )
I am told By Joseph or Janet Surname ( if you have it) that Swimming lessons for my son has been specified by the Government/ Council Education Department Teacher/Officer Whatever as Mandatory
While I fully support / or do not support My son learning to swim. However Your school for which you are responsible has no approved procedure to my knowledge for the dangers to my son special needs for being autistic/ whatever and presumed also to other handicapped children each with their own specific defined need, ( You should have a statement of Needs from your Council's social services department, if not get one, and attach it and say until there is an established approved procedure, Unfortunately I am instructing You Joe or Jane Bloggs
Not to put my son where he may come to harm. This means putting 90 noisy children in an echoing swimming bath is beyond a joke for an autistic child.
If this is you intention please state it. We live at whatever address you live at. (Important for your MP and Councillors who want your Vote)
Just for the record I enclose (Your comment requesting help above) to give you ( again Name )an indication of my fears of your intentions for my son as if he was a normal un-handicapped child.
Send copies to your MP, AM if in wales, SNP Scotland, Your Local Council Social Service Department, and to there Education Authority.
If you need further help Go to your Citizens Advice Centre.
Just for the record My son who is severely autistic, can swim, as can other autistic children who also have a council provided 30 minutes on a Saturday from 12-12.30, There are 2 or 3 definitely autistic children and my son who is 36 years old, There are 2 or 3 other handicapped children who may be autistic or otherwise disabled. It is very noisy in what is an echo chamber, deafening with 2 or 3 kids and an adult trying to drown out the other noises, with their Fingers and thumbs in their ears. One autistic child is mute.
Each child and my son, has an individual special "Water Carer"with them at all times. In my son's case it is me, I have to always be between him and any other child whom he will "interact" Hit, flick, bash if left alone. He has been successful in the past. It is their noise, but in a non handicapped session he was targeted by a little group who swam under me to come up under him to upset him, who was prompt rapped. by him. we avoid normal kids now completely.
My daughter is 8 and still awaiting assessment but is terrified of water and it getting in her face. Our school also does swimming in year 4 and it to is mandatory, but.. . A child can be exempt for medical or safety reasons also you must give consent for him to be taken out of school.
I also work in my daughters school and I know there is at least 2 asd children that have been exempt on sensory or safety grounds.
I is entirely possible that your sons teachers are not aware of the risk assessments needed so have not given you correct information I would suggest asking for a meeting with the school senco or designated safeguarding leader to discuss what happened last time he went swimming you will probably find they are willing to exempt him
UPDATE: After posting this I arranged a meeting at the school with the SENCO teacher, my sons teacher, myself and my son. We discussed mine and my sons concerns and the school was very understanding. They assured us both that if my son does not want to go into the water when the lessons start he will not be made to. His teacher has assured me that she will be with him and once the instructor has given the instructions she will repeat them to my son and will make sure that he is absolutely certain of what he is to do before allowing him into the water. They also made him a booklet which contains a social story about the swimming lessons, they gave him one to bring home and one to keep in school, so that he can read it whenever he wants to, my son loved it. I have also signed him up for 1-2-1 lessons with a private instructor which will start today after school. Thank you all for your advice, fingers crossed all goes well.
I'm so glad to hear it went well!
Good luck x
You can now look forward to your son coming home one day with a 10 metre certificate of his swimming achievement.
Thank you ... the lessons are going brilliantly and my son is really enjoying them ... so much so that he is counting down the days till the next one ... He is enjoying the 1 - 2 - 1 sessions more than the school sessions, mainly because it is in a smaller pool with less noise and a lot less children (there is only him and his instructor and a little girl and her instructor) ... His school teacher spoke to me last week after his first lesson and said he did brilliantly, so hopefully he will continue enjoying them :) x
Fingers crossed :)