Benefits of a structured swim program for children diagnosed within the autism spectrum disorder


  • Jennifer Gaskell, MS, CTRS
  • Maridith A. Janssen, EdD, RTC, CTRS



autism spectrum disorder, aquatic therapy, children, single-subject design, recreation therapy


There is a persistent increase in the number of children who are diagnosed with a form of autism. Many therapeutic programs and interventions available have been known to be beneficial for individuals with disabilities. Therapy in the aquatic setting has been useful for the healing purposes of individuals with musculoskeletal or neuromuscular conditions for many years. Clinicians are now beginning to expand the use of aquatic therapy to a new population, which is children with autism, for healing purposes and as an early intervention. A single-subject design was utilized using the Aquatic Behavior Observation Scale (ABOS) to assess and measure behavioral changes for each of the three subjects while participating in an aquatic observation. The ABOS instrument measured the areas of 1) oriented to present; 2) social and communication skills; 3) control of emotions; and 4) responses to stimuli. Levels of responsiveness in each subcategory varied from participant to participant, and observation-by-observation. Data collected from this study suggest that the subjects diagnosed within the autism spectrum were able to demonstrate mild improvements during the application of the intervention.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Gaskell, MS, CTRS

Rehab Therapist, Metropolitan State Hospital, Norwalk, California

Maridith A. Janssen, EdD, RTC, CTRS

Professor, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California.


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How to Cite

Gaskell, MS, CTRS, J., & Janssen, EdD, RTC, CTRS, M. A. (2014). Benefits of a structured swim program for children diagnosed within the autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 13(1), 9–16.