What is AquOTic?

Welcome to AquOTic, a research lab led by Dr. Erika Kemp (OTD, OTR/L, BCP, FAOTA) an Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Swimming is a basic and fundamental skill that is crucial for any child to learn and yet drowning is currently one of the leading causes of death for children with autism. Current evidence suggests that children with autism tend to require more individualized attention than typical children when acquiring a new skill. Therefore parents of children with autism have found typical group swim lessons ineffective, leaving them feeling anxious and worried for their children around bodies of water. According to Lawson, et.al, (2019) one parent stated “ultimately, it’s about… having a healthy fear of the water. I don’t want her to be fearful, but I want her to have respect.”

This research focuses on implementing and teaching autistic children basic life-saving swim skills that we hope will help prevent the occurrence of drowning and increase independence around bodies of water. Our methods are unique and individualized, unlike typical group swim lessons that can usually be seen at the local pool. We utilize a variety of techniques to ensure that each child is progressing and understands the importance of being safe in a pool.

With the help of Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ West Central School, we are able to use a full-size therapy pool  so our participants are comfortable and can succeed throughout their time in the study. We are very grateful to have the opportunity to work in an environment that fosters inclusion, diversity, and support for all people.

Our team has created an occupational therapy based aquatic program specifically tailored for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This innovative and individualized program is known as AquOTic. This unique program uses sensory, behavioral, and motor learning approaches to help improve water safety and basic swim skills. In addition to these approaches, this program also incorporates occupational therapy evidence-based techniques that are commonly used for children with ASD. Some of these techniques may include…

  • Grading/modifying activities
  • Therapeutic relationships
  • Sensory-based play
  • Task-specific training
  • Visual schedules/aids
  • Routines
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Shaping
  • Individualized goals
  • Child engagement
  • Halliwick Approach
  • Sensory accommodations

By integrating these approaches and techniques into the AquOTic program, our team aims to improve swimming competence and decrease the risk for potential drowning occurrences in children with ASD.