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Calls for accessible swim training as new report reveals link between Autism and drowning

Smiling young swimmer using inflatable resistance pillow while swimming in pool

Summer is now a distant memory, but swim safety for all Australian kids should remain top of mind year round. A shocking new report by Autism Swim has found that despite drowning being the leading cause of death for kids with autism, little research or support is being provided to help combat the risk. Here in Australia, where swim safety is such a visible issue, how can parents of children with disability make sure their kids are not left behind when it comes to being safe in the water?

Released last month, Autism and Drowning: The Underreported Issue revealed that kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a disproportionately high risk of drowning. In fact, they’re 160 times more likely to drown than their peers. Little research exists on why this is the case, however the report cites wandering, a behaviour which is 4 times as likely for children with ASD, as a major cause.

The report’s author is Autism Swim, the world’s only certifying body for aquatics and autism. Alongside education and advocacy, they provide specialist training for swim instructors and parents, and run events like a modified nippers and surf programs. While they cite awareness as a key component to combating the risks, the report also revealed that risk factors are compounded by the fact that mainstream swimming education can’t always accommodate children with ASD.It’s not just kids with ASD that can fall behind when it comes to swim safety. Access to school-based swim programs for all Australian children is already highly variable and often dependent on location, type of school they attend and parents’ ability to pay. This variability increases for children with physical and intellectual disabilities who can be excluded from mainstream swim programs that simply aren’t equipped with the training and resources to accommodate their specific needs.

There has been recognition of the issue, with the Labor Party pledging $46m toward the ‘Swim Smart’ program if it wins the upcoming federal election. He program will aim to ensure all children can learn water safety skills in primary school, and additional support is promised for children with disability to participate in water safety and learn-to-swim programs on an equal basis.

Where can kids with a disability learn water safety?

For parents of kids with a disability who are looking to enrol their kids in private lessons, there are a number of schools and facilities across the country. Here’s just a snapshot of some on offer:

Parents who’d like to expose their kids to more time in the surf can find information on the location of accessible beaches around Australia on our recent blog.

Are swimming lessons funded by the NDIS?

It’s a common question that arises; are swimming lessons covered under the NDIS? Unfortunately, it’s also one without a straightforward answer. There are some instances where the NDIS will fund private swimming lessons. In most cases however, they will only fund the difference in cost between a group and 1:1 lesson, if it can be justified that the participant needs 1:1 support.

Autism Swim provides additional information on their website to clarify the question around swim school funding. Essentially, the NDIS advises that allocation of funding is determined on a case-by-case basis and lists the following as considerations:

“a. the participant’s goals and what they hope to achieve through swimming lessons;
b. whether there is a different way to meet that need or goal that may be more effective or represent better value for money;
c. the functional impact of the person’s disability; and
d. the other supports included in the participant’s plan.”For many participants who are plan managing, or privately managing their NDIS funding, the best option is to find a qualified support worker who’s able to spend some time with them at the pool.

Find a support worker who can dive right in

Engaging your own support workers means that you can search for support based on what’s important to you and your family. Mable is a simple and easy online platform which allows you to do just that, by providing you with access to hundreds of independent disability support workers offering their services directly to clients.

Whether it’s support to swim, participate in school or community activities or for day to day respite for your family, you can find workers with specific experience and skills and hire them to provide the right support for you.

For many Mable clients, it’s not about finding the one person who can fulfill all of these requirements. It’s often about managing a team who support with different aspects of their lives.
Looking for someone who can support your kids with swimming lessons just once a week? That’s OK, too. Post a job with the details and wait for the right support worker to respond.

Contact us today to find out how you can use your NDIS funding to find the right support worker for you and your family.

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