It goes without saying that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is somewhat of a mystery. A child’s response to autism is as unique as the child — making treatment a challenge.
Although the research is still out on why ASD exists, physicians and health care specialists offer many treatments to improve symptoms. Some children aren’t responsive to those methods. Some just need varied forms of treatment.
If your child struggles with ASD, aquatic therapy could be a helpful treatment method — easing autism symptoms and other stressors in your child’s life.
As a treatment approach, it offers benefits and no real downsides.
Understand Treatment Methods for ASD
There are different ways to treat ASD symptoms, including dietary methods, medication and behavioral approaches. Though these are helpful for some children, there are drawbacks to each, and some children don’t respond completely to any of these techniques.
Some of the benefits and drawbacks of each treatment:
- Dietary Methods. Some parents see positive outcomes from dietary changes and restrictions. Such approaches often come from reliable therapists, but success seems to be individualized — many children who struggle with autism see no help and are frustrated by the change in familiar eating habits.
- Medication. Though there are no medications for autism, some drugs do help children handle some of the effects of ASD. Such drugs can help children get along easier in school and other places. These medicines can help children focus, counter depression and regulate high energy levels, among other things. Drugs alone don’t combat all the needs of ASD kids, and some medications have challenging side effects.
- Behavioral Approaches: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises certain behavioral approaches to ASD that many parents find effective — organization, structure and guided direction from family and teachers. Behavioral programs make a huge difference for children with ASD. Aquatic therapy is an excellent addition to this approach.
Consider the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Autistic Children
Aquatic therapy increases the effectiveness of all these approaches to ASD treatment. It helps with autism symptoms, including motor functions and sensory issues. As an added benefit, your child could become a better swimmer who is less at risk near water.
A few ways aquatic therapy can help ease symptoms of ASD are:
- Better Balance. Aquatic therapy helps strengthen muscles, which increases balance and develops better range of motion. It helps that water play is fun and individualized, even for kids on the spectrum.
- Better Communication Skills. Being in the water doesn’t mean a lot of social interaction, but it can be a safe place to practice small interactions without the pressure to chat.
- Help With Sensory Issues. Often, children with ASD struggle with sensory integration disorders. Water tends to have a calming effect, and some therapies include activities designed to help sensory issues.
- Better Oral Motor Skills. Some kids with ASD struggle with certain motor skills, like sipping through a straw or blowing out candles on a cake. Because aquatic therapy includes activities like blowing bubbles in water or blowing a ball across the water, kids develop stronger oral motor skills.
- Better Swimmers. Being in the water makes kids more comfortable when it’s time to learn to swim. Water is especially hazardous for children with ASD because many have difficulty communicating when they are in danger. Aquatic therapy gives autistic kids time to build a crucial skill.
Choose Fun: Aquatic Therapy Aids Traditional ASD Treatments
Physical therapists have witnessed how water therapy helps the symptoms of ASD. Their studies show that children with ASD who engage in aquatic therapy improve their limitations. A child with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital — struggling with joint issues — can improve mobility and muscle strength in water exercise.
There are secondary benefits to aquatic therapy, too. For kids, being in the water doesn’t feel like a chore or like a clinical doctor’s office — it’s fun.
It doesn’t matter how big or small a child is — the water accommodates all sizes. Some sensory issues make it difficult for kids on the spectrum to comfortably take part, but water helps. It eases anxiety and calms feelings of discomfort.
All kids have trouble with short attention spans, but this is particularly true of autistic children. Being in the water tends to help them stay focused.
See Improved Outcomes With Aquatic Therapy
Behavioral therapy is much easier after time in the water, which helps calm a busy body and mind. Exercise itself is a form of therapy, and when done it water, it’s not work.
Because dietary changes are sometimes met with opposition, it’s easier to tackle these when children are hungry — and water exercise is great for increasing appetites.
Aquatic therapy can help with the side effects of certain drugs. The exercise helps your child process medications and will often work against effects like drowsiness or weight gain. Because the exercise involves water play, children are happy to join.
Until scientists discover more answers to the mystery of autism, helping your child manage their symptoms is the best bet for combating the challenges of ASD. Regardless of which therapy works best for your child, aquatic therapy can give your child something to look forward to while improving autism symptoms.
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