ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Matt Wiseman teaches a very special swim class: it’s designed just for children who have autism.
Wiseman’s 10-year-old son, Ben, is on the autism spectrum. Statistically that makes him 50% more likely to drown than other children.
Wiseman says that children with autism are often attracted to water, but lack the swimming skills they need or the awareness of how dangerous water can be. His mission is to change that. Since starting the Pinellas Autism Project in Florida two years ago, he’s taught more than 100 children with autism how to swim.
“One of the things with kids with autism is they’re very attracted to water,” Wiseman told Fox 13 Tampa. “Unfortunately, here in Florida, a kid will get out of the house and go to the neighbor’s pool, or the stormwater retention pond, and they end up drowning there because they have no swimming instruction.”
Wiseman works with behavioral therapists to provide a special approach that makes learning to swim more accessible. In addition to learning how to float and move around in the water, the program also focuses on learning how to pull oneself out of the water, with and without a ladder.
Knowing how to swim can be a matter of life and death, and everyone deserves the opportunity to learn. Now, thanks to Wiseman, these students are getting that opportunity in a way that works for them.