Campbelltown Council to introduce swim classes for kids with autism

Ingleburn's Amanda Rohrlach and her son Nate Roberts, six. Nate has level one autism and loves to go swimming. Picture: Simon Bennett
Ingleburn's Amanda Rohrlach and her son Nate Roberts, six. Nate has level one autism and loves to go swimming. Picture: Simon Bennett

A unique swimming initiative for kids with autism has just been given the green light.

Campbelltown councillors unanimously passed a motion at last week's meeting to create a new water safety program for children on the autism spectrum.

Five local Learn to Swim instructors will become accredited to teach tailored classes in the coming year.

Councillor Margaret Chivers has been a driving force behind the proposal. Cr Chivers first raised the motion for council to investigate the initiative at March's council meeting.

The Labor councillor said she was "really, really pleased" and Campbelltown Council was "ahead of the curve" by approving the program.

"I think it's really important because this is a sleeper issue for our country," she said.

"Children with autism can wander off because they are curious. They gravitate towards water.

"Autistic children like the quiet and one of the quietest places is underwater."

Council will tailor its Water Safety Week program in term four to provide water education specifically to families of children with autism.

The council will then deliver a pilot water safety course in early 2020. It will be supported by local community groups such as The Rainbow Club and Macarthur Disability Services.

Cr Chivers said the course would help "produce more confident swimmers".

"I taught for 30 years and you need to cater for the needs of every child you're teaching," she said.

"Children with a learning disability like autism are not unteachable. You need to teach them in a different way, in a different language."

Cr Chivers thanked her fellow councillors for unanimously supporting the motion.

"We get along really well and are very cohesive," she said.

"There is lots more to do, but it's about raising awareness."

Ingleburn resident Amanda Rohrlach said the new program would support children with autism like her six-year-old son Nate Roberts.

Ms Rohrlach said Nate had level one autism and loved swimming.

"Kids like Nate don't just do as things as they're asked," she said.

"But if he doesn't do the right thing, he gets upset at himself.

"You need to learn a different language."

Campbelltown councillor Margaret Chivers meets Ingleburn's Nate Roberts, six, who has autism. Picture: Simon Bennett

Campbelltown councillor Margaret Chivers meets Ingleburn's Nate Roberts, six, who has autism. Picture: Simon Bennett