Autism Society Congratulates Swimming with Autism Program Graduates

kristina1 fairlawn

Pictured: Kristina of Fairlawn with her swim instructor

The Autism Society Greater Akron (ASGA) is proud to announce the inaugural class of twenty-three students who graduated from its “Swimming with Autism” class, a water safety program designed especially for individuals with autism.

Lisa Thompson, Director of ASGA Programs, said “We want to congratulate all the graduates, instructors, and parents who made up this first class. The progress the student’s made surpassed all of our expectations and planning – mission accomplished.  We couldn’t be prouder of this moment!”

The following students – ranging in age from four to 24 – made up the graduating class (first name and city of residence):

Dominic (Medina)

Joshua (Akron)

Alistair (Akron)

Brady (Cuyahoga Falls)

Alena (New Franklin)

Brett (Wadsworth)

Hawk (Fairlawn)

Rocco (Fairlawn)

Justus (Copley)

Logan (East Sparta)

Austin (Akron)

August (Copley)

MyKael (Akron)

Kristina (Fairlawn)

Emily (Akron)

Quentin (Stow)

Cooper (Akron)

Xavier (Copley)

Elijah (Akron)

Emmanuel (Akron)

Wilson (Wadsworth)

Dylan (Barberton)

Dominic (Akron)


“Swimming with Autism” is a water safety program in partnership with the Akron-YMCA.  The curriculum was adapted by ASGA from the Autism Society of Greater San Diego’s water safety program.  Instructors were recruited from area colleges who are majoring in areas such as education, occupational therapy, and family development, and were trained in working with individuals with autism and critical water safety skills. The water safety program was for 10 weeks, twice a week, and the cost was subsidized through ASGA fundraising and a grant from the Akron General Employees Association to make it more affordable for families.

Leah Padilla, of Fairlawn, said about her daughter Kristina’s (age five) experience in class, “Kristina was medically diagnosed with moderate to severe autism when she was four years old and does not understand danger and will often bolt or wander.  When I read the Autism Society’s brochure about the program, I was struck by the statistic that children with autism are 160 times more likely to drown than the general population.

“With this program,” Leah continued, “Kristina has gone from primarily requesting “school bus” because she loves school, to requesting “swimming.”  She has made incredible gains not only with water safety, but also in areas we didn’t expect, such as identifying people by name, joint attention, waiting, listening and following directions, fun, fun fun, for her!”

Laurie Cramer, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA), said “Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for both adults and children with autism.  We have worked for over three years to create a program that would fit the needs of our community.  The partnership with the Akron –YMCA leverages two great missions when they come together…to improve the lives of all affected by autism, and putting Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all (emphasis added), which includes people with developmental disabilities. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

The second class of the Swimming with Autism program will be in March 2018; registration will open early next year.  More information about this program, and other Autism Society of Greater Akron’s programs, can be found at