Water Safety Program

WEB Header Water Safety


2024 Spring Session - March 19 to May 16

Registration for this Session is Closed.

Waiting List
If you would like to be placed on the waiting list for the Fall Session, please complete the form HERE.

Program Description

The Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) partnered with the Greater Akron YMCA to develop a Water Safety Program that launched in the Fall of 2017. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are 160 times as likely to die from drowning as the general pediatric population. Given this exceptionally heightened risk of drowning for children with autism, swimming classes should be the intervention of top priority.

Accidental drowning for children with autism is compounded by the fact that roughly half attempt to leave (“elope”) from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings. With such alarming rates, ASGA set out to develop an intensive safety program for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in our community.

The Water Safety Program is based on a curriculum designed by the Autism Society of San Diego; ASGA is the third affiliate of the Autism Society of America to roll out this life-saving initiative. The main goal for our participants is safety first and swimming second. We hope that individuals who go through this program continue their instruction with the YMCA after the ASGA program ends. Aquatic instructors receive training in modified safety swimming skills and techniques, the characteristics of autism, communication techniques, and instructional and behavioral strategies to utilize with students. Instructor training entails time in the classroom and hands-on experience with students in the pool.


About the Program

Program Focus: Water adjustment and exploration; water safety; water entry and exit; breath control; buoyancy and flotation; combined arm and leg action through the water.

Requirements of participants: ages 6 through adult accepted, must be diagnosed with Autism or other developmental disability, can walk unassisted, and be able to work one-on-one with a swim instructor.

For successful completion of the program, swimmers must demonstrate competence in the exit skills by submerging in deep water, surfacing, treading or floating with face out of water for 30 seconds; then turning and swimming 15 feet back to the wall or to shallow water to exit the pool.   Note:  this does not include competence in traditional swim strokes such as freestyle or backstroke.

For consideration: 

  • If your swimmer can swim more than 15 feet in the pool or if your swimmer refuses to enter the water, this program may not be suitable for them.





What are the dates, times and location? 

This program offers 30-minute one-on-one lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning on March 19, 2024 with the last lesson scheduled on May 16, 2024. 

Lesson times:  6:00pm. 6:30pm, 7:00pm, and 7:30pm.

Lessons offered at the Kohl Family YMCA located at 477 E Market Street, Akron OH 44304.

Parents are expected to attend a mandatory parent orientation prior to the start of the program and a graduation celebration will conclude the program.


What is the cost?

The cost of the program per swimmer is $700. Every family automatically receives a $300 scholarship making the program cost $400 per swimmer. That is approximately $22 per lesson for 30 minutes of specialized one-on-one instruction.  The reduced rate to families is made possible through grants and ASGA fundraising efforts.  

County Board of DD dollars may be used as payment for this program, but ASGA is not a Medicaid or Waiver provider.  Limited scholarships are available, email Lisa Thompson for information.

What do participants say?

"The individual attention to each student and catering to what they liked to do. I am thrilled that he knows more about water safety and he loved coming and looked forward to it every week!" - Carol Henry

"The best part of these lessons was the instructing. The ability to adapt expectations for the ability of the swimmer was paramount in building rapport with the instructor and building confidence in the swimmer. Without trust and confidence it will be very challenging to meet success in the water." - Shelley Melchior

"Everyone was so patient and kind. This program is absolutely a blessing for parents like me who want our children to learn the skills that other children may possess, but don’t have access to programs that are staffed by individuals who are skilled at working with children with neurological disorders and/or disabilities." - Shanae Moss


Do you need more information?

If you have any questions or need additional information, contact Suzanne Erb, Education and Program Coordinator via email HERE.

This program is made possible by:


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Event Details

Event Start Date 12-31-2024
Location Akron YMCA