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School Swimming Lessons and Autism.

(32 Posts)
JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 20:17:22

Hi all, just after a bit of advice if anyone can help. My son who is 7 and has asd is already panicking about school swimming lessons which are due to start in May. One of the many hurdles apart from the fact that he can't dry himeslf (and doesn't want his 1:1 to either), can't swim, can't tolerate the noise in the pool etc etc that he is really getting stressed about wearing the "compulsory" swimming hat/cap that we have been informed he "must" wear due to Health & Safety reasons. Although I have expressed deep concern about this at meetings, due to severe sensory issues - i.e. haircuts, anything near his ears result in pain etc etc, I am still being told by HT that is regulation and he MUST wear one, otherwise he cannot go into the pool. I did read somewhere, a while ago, that this does not count as a "reasonable adjustment" under the Disability Discrimination Act, but I cannot find it anywhere, please help, my DS is getting really anxious about this

aSilverLining Sat 30-Jan-10 20:34:35

does he HAVE to go? Surely they need your consent for him to go out of school to the pool?

My DS is exactly the same but 5yrs old, I am looking into lessons out of school that will be more tailored to him ie smaller pool or group or even 1:1 maybe, and with less restrictions such as silly swimming cap rules. hmm

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 20:36:34

Hi Silver,

It is part of the National Curriculum in Yr 3 so that is why he is being prepared for going. I am not sure how far they will get to be honest. He is in mainstream with full time 1:1.

vjg13 Sat 30-Jan-10 20:39:01

I would try and organise some other swimming lessons that are more appropriate and see if you can build up to him accessing swimming with school.

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 20:43:46

Thanks for your message vjg, we have taken him swimming on many occasions and we do it to tailor his needs, he loves it.....i.e. At a quiet time, parent drying/dressing him (as he is unable) no swimming cap/hat etc etc......however, this will all change in May as it is in Mainstream school/no parent to dress/dry and then a swimming hat comes in, plus 30 kids in pool.....a whole new kettle of fish. I just can't find where I read about the hat and the DDA, that would be one less (big) issue.

aSilverLining Sat 30-Jan-10 20:47:25

That's a good idea building him up to it.

TBH in your situation I would do all I could to encourage him being able to go, building up with maybe some quiet lessons in a less stressful environment, for example. But. If it got nearer to to the time I would definately be putting my foot down, refusing my consent and saying I didn't wish for him to go. I think swimming is an important life skill and I do want my DS to learn, mainly as he seems to hold absolutely no fear in the water so would he could swim when he jumps off the deep end of a pool....

Did you go to swimming lessons as a child? I did, the noise is worse than a classroom (voices, plus splashing, and machines,), floursecent lighting, unexpected routine, different sensory things while stressed, I'm not ASD and I remember how unpleasant it was as an NT child who liked swimming! My DS would regress if faced with that every week for a term. sad

Can you look into private lessons? There are lots in my area and fairly reasonable, I am planning to either pay for them from DS's DLA or apply to family fund. I am hoping that this will either prepare him adequately for school swimming lessons, or leave me feeling confident in denying consent for them.

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 20:53:43

TBH, he only loves swimming because we take him (and our other two) at times to suit him. I cannot see him tolerating, at all, 30 other kids in the pool, not having me or husband dry/dress him, and certainly not wearing the hat. I have relayed all my concerns to school and they are just repeating that it is part of the curriculum and he has to go.....with the hat!!!! I just need some kid of concrete "evidence" that I can show at his review in,that he DOES NOT have to go, and the school have to provide alternative arrangements. I just cannot find anything to support this

debs40 Sat 30-Jan-10 20:57:47


I don't know where you read about the hat, but, as a lawyer, I can tell you that reasonable adjustments do have to be made to accomodate disabilities.

Unlawful discrimination may be taking place when:

A school treats a disabled pupil differently from other pupils and this has a harmful effect and/or

A school treats a disabled pupil in exactly the same way as other pupils and this has a harmful effect.

The school’s justification for less favourable treatment must be material and substantial.The key issue is how reasonable it is for them to make the adjustment. Why do they need to insist on him wearing the hat?

However, this does not get over the other issues. Do you want him to go? If you do, you will have to argue for him to get assistance which will almost certainly be very difficult even if it is about him accessing part of curriculum. The school will say they don't have the resources.
Reasonable adjustments do not include providing auxiliary aids and services to suit the pupil. These are expected to be provided through special educational needs provision or long term planning.

If you don't, and it sounds like a lot of stress, then I think you should talk to the school aboout keeping him at school

Can you decide what you would like him to do and what he wants to do and then if he wants to go, can you draw up a l,ist of adjustments you think they could make?

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 21:03:58

Hi Debs, thanks for your great advice. I do want him to go swimming as it is part of the curriculum and I don't want him to feel as though he is missing out when he sees all his friends go. I know if the school just made some reasonable adjustments, i.e. the swimming hat, for starters, he would actually make it into the pool instead of spending the next few months getting more and more anxious about it. He has full time 1:1 support anyway for 32.5 hours per week (all of school time) so that is not a worry. School have said it is part of regulations due to Health & Safety, but when I queried this at a meeting due to "reasonable adjustments" I was told the council had made their final decision and he has to wear it. I know it is only a hat, but it is a massive deal to my son, whose sensory issues in that area actually cause him pain

vjg13 Sat 30-Jan-10 21:06:18

Would a letter from your GP or someone else he sees be useful in making the school back down.

debs40 Sat 30-Jan-10 21:08:06

Unacceptable. I think you should ask for a copy of the advice which compels children to wear hats and tell them that you will be writing to the Head of SEN at your LA about it. You can ask Parent Partnership (search for parent partnership and your council's name to get details).

Talk also to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission about the school's stance and tell the school you are checking out the situation with the Commission because you think the council have given the school bad advice. That way you don't have to tackle the school directly.

CAT me if I can help further.

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 21:08:11

Hey, what a great idea Vjg, thank you Or perhaps his OT could write one. THANK YOU

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 21:10:28

Oooh thanks Debs, will look into that now, just gonna go look up Equalities and Human Rights Website. Have looked up the regulations for swimming on the County Council Website, but can't find anything about swimming hats hmm

Hassled Sat 30-Jan-10 21:10:35

Have you tried one of those cloth hats - the same sort of material as swimming costumes? They don't have to be those hideous rubber things. I know that doesn't solve the other issues, though, but it might help. I think Speedo do them.

Cranreuch Sat 30-Jan-10 21:10:42

My ds refused to go to school swimming lessons. There is no way he would go, the school couldn't force him, at first he went and sat at the side - in the hope that he might eventually want to go - in the end he just stayed at school with his lsa.

debs40 Sat 30-Jan-10 21:15:00

You are right to be upset, it is cruel and shows a complete lack of understanding of sensory issues. These are at the very heart of ASD so it is always disappointing to hear schools act in this way.

I assume you have a diagnosis and a report which indicates he has these sensory problems and that school know there are sensory issues?

If so, there is no excuse. Focus on telling them you are taking it up with the lA but the school is responsible for making its own decision on this.

I would guess it's a question of lack of understanding and not wanting to differentiate between children because they think that all the kids won't want to wear hats. Tough. Teachers should have the courage to just explain it to them.

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 21:16:25

Hassled - Hi yeah, he could wear one of the polyester ones, but he is point blank refusing and I mean refusing!!! I don't blame him tho, he has really really severe sensory issues all around his ears/back of his head and even extensive OT/BIBIC therapies have not changed this.

Cran - I think this is what will happen in the end, it just makes me angry that with "reasonable adjustments" that he might just want to go, but school won't budge angry

finefatmama Sat 30-Jan-10 21:17:54

Hi, just wanted to say that ds doesn't use a hat or arm bands and has never tolerated it. I bought him the hat but it was sent back home. He's in reception in a special school though so I don't know if different standards apply.

JAKEJEM Sat 30-Jan-10 21:20:32

debs, you are so right Total lack of understanding but that is a whole new thread Yes, he has a diagnosis of autism/dyspraxia and lots of reports sta ting his sensory issues. NO EXCUSE AT ALL.

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 31-Jan-10 12:38:32

Message withdrawn

JAKEJEM Sun 31-Jan-10 14:59:26

You are right Starlight, they just don't get it at all, and will they ever listen to the parents???? Oh god no, we are just dirt on the bottom of their shoe.

StarlightMcKenzie Sun 31-Jan-10 16:15:44

Message withdrawn

cornsilk Sun 31-Jan-10 16:18:39

Can we have debs40 as the new Queen of Mumsnet?

amberlight Sun 31-Jan-10 17:17:29

If this helps, as someone on the autism spectrum I can tell you that swimming can be, for me, pure utter torture. The noise is deafening, the water hurts, the swimming caps pull my hair so badly that I could cry and the tightness never goes. Getting changed hurts, walking on the cold surface hurts, the noise of getting water in my ears is louder than gunshot, the smell of the chemicals is enough to make me feel sick. I have difficulties with co-ordination so can barely swim after years of lessons that I was utterly terrified of taking part in.

I can swim in an outdoor private pool with just a couple of safe people with me, if I can totally pace myself and have something to hold on to.

School is not there to torture children with sensory and ASC issues. You are not being unreasonable in asking for adjustments or alternatives.

debs40 Sun 31-Jan-10 17:23:46

Shucks cornsilk blush .... you guys have taught me to take no sh*t! And I'm just learning...the hard way most of the time.

Yes, there are funding issues and teachers aren't properly trained in SEN etc etc but
I wish these people would just say...I know bollocks all about ASD, it would be great if you experts (parents and professionals could help). Oh no, that would be too easy.

Instead, the stumble from one incident to the next, blathering and pretending they've made reasoned decisions, but they are generally based on ignorance (in the true sense of the word).

It is gutting when you've been working with a school and they have all the information to find out, in a stupid debate about something so stupid, that they have learnt nothing after all......... angry Groundhog day!

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