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ABA Swimming Classes

Posted by: | Posted on: November 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments


Applied Behaviour Analysis-Based Interventions to Improve the Behavioural Safety of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Catriona Martin, PhD student at Queen’s University of Belfast is running a research project to explore how methods developed using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) can be drawn upon to teach children with ASD how to be safe in water. ABA has been shown to be an effective basis for teaching all sorts of skills, including safety skills to individuals with ASD. With the collaboration of expert swim coaches and life-guards, Catriona proposes to adapt these methods to the teaching of water safety skills. Participation in this study would require to attend a series of swim lessons designed by Catriona, with input from swimming experts, and would be conducted by qualified swimming coaches.

What is the purpose of this investigation?

The aims of the proposed study are as follows: To identify specific risks relating to water safety and identify the extent to which these risks are amplified for an individual with ASD; and to develop methods based on the principles of ABA that are effective in teaching water safety and swimming to individuals with ASD.

More specifically, this study, will address the following questions:

  1. What are the specific categories of risks for individuals with ASD around bodies of water;
  2. How can a behavioural safety strategy be devised to address each of these areas?
  3. How does this strategy improve the water safety of individuals with ASD?
  4. What effect does this program have on the individual’s family life?

By the end of participation in this study, it is hoped that your child will have reached a stage of water competency which enhances their ability to them to bring themselves to safety if they were to fall into a body of water.

Do you have to take part?

Participant involvement is entirely voluntary and participants retain the right to withdraw from the study at any point without any form of repercussion. Withdrawal would have no effect whatsoever on the relationship that participants have either with myself, the organisation through whom you came to hear of the study, or with Queen’s University of Belfast. 

What will you do in the project?

Participation in this project will require attendance at a series of (8-12) 40-minute swim teaching sessions. The school is located in Perth and Kinross at Glenalmond College.

Time will need to be allowed both before and after the session for changing (facilities which have been deemed to comply with health and safety regulations will be available) and participants will need to make their own way to and from the venue. It is hoped that the programme will run during the school holidays to allow for attendance.

During the session, both child and you (or another of the child’s usual caregivers) will need to be willing to come to the pool, get changed into swim gear and be prepared to enter the water and receive instruction from the swim coach (NB. We understand that some of the children may not want to enter the water at the beginning of the sessions. If you feel this may be in issue for your child please discuss this with us prior to the programme). Flotation devices and other tools will be provided. Participants may be asked to bring a preferred item with them to facilitate transition for the child.

This study uses a single-subject research design, which means that your child’s progress will be compared only to his or her earlier behaviour and not to other participants. They will progress at their own rate and will not be asked to perform tasks that are beyond their current capability. There is an active requirement in this study and you and your child will be asked to perform specific instructions as demonstrated by the swim coach throughout the swim session.

There will be a minimal charge for the sessions in order to cover the cost of the lifeguards and the swim coaches. This will be in the region of £30 – £40 per child for each study that you wish to participate in. The experimenter is currently attempting to find external funding to cover this charge, and should that be successful the charge will be reduced as appropriate. No part of this payment will be received by Queen’s University of Belfast, AT+ or Catriona herself. For more information, please contact us.

Comments (3)

  1. Jackie Doig - Reply
    November 26, 2013

    This sounds really interesting! Ross has classic autism but loves swimming- poor concentration and no real water safety knowledge. Reluctant to put his hair in the water but can move quite well in the water. He is 16 so not sure if he would qualify for the study?
    If so, can you please send me more info and let me know when the sessions would be?

    Many thanks,

  2. Moira Simpson - Reply
    November 28, 2013

    I am very interested in this. Thomas is 9 and loves water. He can use a float or noodle but cannot swim. Please email me more details – esp what days and times the classes are held.

    • - Reply
      November 29, 2013

      Dear Moira

      I have passed on your message to Catriona who will be in touch. Very best. Lorene

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