A Systematic Review of Swimming Programs for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Kelle L. Murphy, Karl-Richard Hennebach


Drowning is the leading cause of death for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and accidental drowning accounted for 91% of total U.S. deaths reported in children with ASD ages 14 and younger. The purpose of this systematic review was to conduct an in-depth analysis of studies pertaining to swimming programs for individuals with ASD to enhance our current swimming program for individuals with ASD and to guide future research endeavors. This systematic review identified 23 studies that met the following inclusion criteria: 1) published within the last 35 years; 2) included children or adolescents with ASD; 3) involved any aquatic activity including swimming programs; and 4) met definition of empirical study. Gender ratio of participants in the 23 studies exceeded the general male to female ratio and favored boys. Variation was found in terms of program duration and assessments used. Small sample sizes were used due to mixed methodology designs. All 23 studies reported significant findings. Future research should address: effective teaching strategies for basic safety and swimming skills for individuals with ASD; implementation of sensory programs and visual supports to swimming programs, examination of relationship between swimming and decrease in repetitive behaviors; larger sample sizes and qualitative studies.


autism, ASD, swimming, children, and adolescents

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ISSN: 2454-6623