Aquatic Intervention and Drowning Prevention for Children with Special Needs

Here at FLOW Aquatics, we believe drowning prevention is the most important reason for learning how to swim—and for good reason. While we work hard to dispel the myth that water is something to be afraid of, we acknowledge the risks: drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children ages one to four, and the third leading cause of death in children 19 and under according to the CDC.

However, the danger of drowning is much higher for children with special needs, specifically those with autism. In fact, 91 percent of all wandering-related deaths among autistic children were due to accidental drowning, according to the National Autism Association.

And we feel it’s important to do our part to help reduce those numbers.

Last month, Coach Shannon attended a very special event: a conference dedicated to early aquatic intervention and drowning prevention for infants and toddlers with special abilities. This conference included presentations from award-winning international speakers from Australia, Japan, and the United States. Our goal in participating: to learn more about offering special abilities classes to children in our community.

Coach Shannon (bottom row, second from left) poses with conference attendees


One presentation, Living with Autism: A Parent’s Perspective, was provided by Shirley Felt, former president and current executive board member of the San Diego Autism Society. “This session offered more insight into autism, and enabled us to see it through the eyes of a parent—helping us to see what they go through every day,” said Coach Shannon. The presentation also featured information about the challenges autistic children have with social skills, communication, and behavior; as well as how this knowledge relates to the importance of water safety. The presenter’s parting thoughts were:

  • We know that attraction to water occurs throughout the lifespan for most persons with autism.
  • Infants can learn to swim, but maybe it is something we overlook, even for adults.
  • Learning to swim is the most important skill we can provide to persons with autism.
  • The earlier we teach this skill, the more lives we will save.

Another presentation, provided by Tammy Anderson, founder of Aqua Pros and co-author of Swimming with Autism, provided invaluable information and was geared toward building a staff of instructors equipped to assist children with the on the spectrum.

Coach Shannon, second from left, with conference attendees

All in all, our biggest takeaways from these presentations are how we can incorporate our learnings with all kids regardless of ability, and, that many times there is no exact prescription that may be applied. Many times you have to think outside of the box.

And that is just what we plan to do.

Knowing we cannot provide lessons for every child, we have joined forces with other community programs to allow for a broader reach. Two of these programs are Kaleidoscope Pediatric Therapy, which offers aquatic therapy for kids with special abilities, and I Can Swim, headed by Amie Liscinski, which offers adaptive swimming lessons geared towards children with autism.

According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), “Swimming provides invaluable therapy for children with autism, as well as providing a social outlet for them. Swimming can help an autistic child improve their speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing.”

Moving forward, FLOW Aquatics is proud to provide space for these adaptive swimming programs. We are thrilled to play even a small part in helping children of all ages and abilities gain the skills they need protect themselves from the risk of drowning, but to also eventually learn to love swimming and the freedom in the water it affords them.

If you’d like to learn more about the aquatic therapy of adaptive lessons being held at the FLOW Aquatics pool, contact Kaleidoscope Pediatric Therapy at (208) 375-4200 or visit their website at To reach Amie Liscinski of I Can Swim, send an email to