Campbelltown Council to look into swim classes for kids with autism

Children with autism are more like to die from drowning than by any other means.

This frightening statistic has prompted Campbelltown Council to investigate the possibility of introducing specific and tailored water safety/learn to swim classes for children on the autism spectrum.

Councillor Margaret Chivers raised the motion at this week's council meeting and was met with support from the chamber.

"I've been teaching children with autism all my life," she said.

"I was shocked to read that drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism.

"This is because it's quiet underwater - their natural instincts don't tell them to go up and take a breath, but to stay underwater."

She said it was vitally important that children with autism learnt how to protect themselves near water.

Cr Shivers said teaching children to swim was not a matter of "one size fits all".

"You have to tailor your teaching in the classroom, and with swimming it's no different," she said.

"Teaching is a hard job if you want to do it well.

"Many kids with autism get pushed out of mainstream swimming lessons because the teacher is not skilled enough to deliver their lessons to children with special needs.

"This takes special training."

Cr Chivers said she read a story in the New York Times which stated children with autism were 160 per cent more likely to die from drowning than other children.

She said with one in 70 Australians living with autism, it was important that tailored water safety classes were introduced.

Councillor Ben Gilholme praised Cr Chivers' motion.

"We should be teaching children with autism how to swim in a way that is safe for them to learn," he said.

"Some people with autism have never been given the opportunity to swim.

"This is particularly alarming given the number of drowning deaths we see in NSW."

Mayor George Brticevic said the motion was a brilliant idea.

"I'm so proud to support this motion," he said.

Cr Chivers suggested teachers from ASPECT Macarthur could train Campbelltown's swimming instructors so they become skilled in tailoring their lessons to children with autism.

She said a similar approach to 'quiet hour' sessions in the city's libraries had worked successfully.

Council staff will now investigate the feasibility of providing such a program.