Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 12, pp 4006–4017 | Cite as

The Effectiveness of Aquatic Group Therapy for Improving Water Safety and Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Program

  • Michele L. AlanizEmail author
  • Sheila S. Rosenberg
  • Nicole R. Beard
  • Emily R. Rosario
Original Paper


Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Few studies have examined the effectiveness of swim instruction for improving water safety skills in children with moderate to severe ASD. This study examines the feasibility and effectiveness of an aquatic therapy program on water safety and social skills in children with mild to severe ASD (n = 7). Water safety skills were evaluated using the Aquatics Skills Checklist and social skills were measured using the Social Skills Improvement Scale. We provide preliminary evidence that children with ASD can improve water safety skills (p = 0.0002), which are important for drowning prevention after only 8 h of intervention. However, social skills did not respond to intervention (p = 0.6409).


Aquatic therapy Autism spectrum disorder Social skills Occupational therapy Swimming Drowning prevention 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Loverso and the Casa Colina Board of Directors, Cindy Sendor and the Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation Foundation for supporting this research. We would also like to thank Gabriel Alaniz, Aisha Babb, Amber Gray, Christina Kang, Michelle Lam, Michelle Lee, Genesis Lopez, Kyra Ray, Alexis Smith, and Lacy Wright for their involvement in study recruitment and testing.


This research followed all accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct. Funding for this study was provided by Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation Foundation.

Authors’ Contribution

MLA conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the measurement, participated in the design and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; SRR participated in the design and coordination of the study and of the data, performed the statistical analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; NRB participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the measurement, and helped draft the manuscript; ERR participated in the design and interpretation of the data, performed statistical analysis and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest, financial or non-financial, were identified.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Children’s Services CenterCasa Colina Hospital and Centers for HealthcarePomonaUSA
  2. 2.Casa Colina’s Research InstitutePomonaUSA
  3. 3.Curative New Berlin TherapiesNew BerlinUSA
  4. 4.Children’s Services CenterUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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