Sensory processing patterns and swim skill acquisition of children with autism spectrum disorder


  • Lisa Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS
  • Megan Mazurowski, OTR/L
  • Sarah Petersen, OTR/L



Autism spectrum disorder, swimming, swim instruction, physical activity, sensory processing patterns


This descriptive study aimed to understand swim skill acquisition of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) engaged in KU Sensory Enhanced Aquatics. Researchers analyzed Sensory Profiles and documentation of 83 children with ASDs’ first 8-week session. Research questions included identifying what swim skills were acquired over 8 weeks, which sensory supports were used most frequently and how a child's sensory processing pattern impacted swim skill acquisition. Findings showed children with an ASD most frequently acquired swim skills in the Water Orientation, Front Stroke, and Backstroke categories. Goggles were the sensory supports used most frequently. Though there were more similarities than differences between children's sensory patterns and swim skill acquisition, sensory seeking children acquired the most swim skills compared to other patterns. Findings suggest that sensory supports may encourage swim skill acquisition of children with ASDs’ in a variety skill categories.

Author Biographies

Lisa Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS

Occupational Therapy Education Department, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Missouri

Megan Mazurowski, OTR/L

Therapy Services Department, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Sarah Petersen, OTR/L

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, Riverside Nursing & Rehabilitation, Riverside, Missouri


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How to Cite

Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS, L., Mazurowski, OTR/L, M., & Petersen, OTR/L, S. (2017). Sensory processing patterns and swim skill acquisition of children with autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 16(2), 29–40.