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A New Approach to Swim Lessons: Behavioral Progression Introduces Safe and Sound Swimmers

Water safety is so important! The need for children to learn water safety and swimming skills is made abundantly clear by the many statistics concerning water related injuries and accidents. Children and individuals with special needs are at an increased risk for water related incidents. According to Autism Speaks, drowning remains a leading cause of death for children with autism and accounts for approximately 90% of deaths associated with elopement for children 14 and younger (Autism Speaks, 2020). Keeping children safe around water is especially important in Florida considering the large number of bodies of water that are nearby at any time. In 2013, Florida had the highest unintentional drowning rate in the nation for children ages 1-4 and the second highest drowning rate in the nation for children ages 1-14 (Florida Department of Health, 2019).

Behavioral Progression recognized that our community could benefit from a swim program that catered to individuals with special needs, of all ages. The Safe and Sound Swimmers program was developed to address each child’s unique considerations by incorporating the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The Safe and Sound Swimmers program specifically caters to children with individualized needs. Typical learn-to-swim programs may not have the resources or staff training available to individualize lessons based on each child’s abilities, unless an instructor is available within the program whom holds specific expertise and training in working with this population. However, all Safe and Sound Swimmers’ instructors are trained to work with this population. The instructors included in our program have a wide variety of training including certification as Red Cross Water Safety Instructors, Dan Marino Adaptive Aquatics certification, First Aid and CPR certifications, and extensive training in Applied Behavior Analysis. The Safe and Sound Swimmers program is perfect for children who may not have been successful with traditional learn-to-swim programs, or for children whose parents did not feel comfortable enrolling them in a program with such limited resources. The strategies used in Safe and Sound Swimmers lessons can be successful with any learner and are designed to be a fun and positive experience. Each child participates in 1:1 lessons addressing their needs, skill level, motivation, and family values. We focus on individualizing instruction plans for each participant by starting out with an assessment to identify all factors to consider. We work with the families and other potential caregivers/service providers to provide swim lessons to children for overall success.

Swim lessons will not “drown-proof” any child or adult, but they do add a layer of protection (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends swim lessons for all children, and their parents, as another layer of water safety. Recent studies suggest that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for all children including those 1 to 4 years old (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019). Behavioral Progression is pleased to be able to offer this program to the communities in which we serve and our team is excited to have a positive impact on the children and individuals who may not have been able to receive or had success with traditional learn-to-swim training. Safe and Sound Swimmers program will empower children to stay safe and swim with confidence.

Autism Speaks. (2020). Autism Statistics and Facts.

Florida Department of Health (2019, March 22). Drowning Prevention.


If you have any other questions or you are looking for more information on how you can enroll in swim lessons, please contact us:


We invite you to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for more information about Safe and Sound Swimmers.


About the author

Cassandra “Cassie” Ritenour is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Prior to diving into the world of ABA, Cassie worked in the education field, and has been working with children since she was a teenager. Cassie began working with Behavioral Progression in 2017. Along with many supervisory roles within the company, Cassie is also the Program Coordinator for Safe and Sound Swimmers. Cassie found her love for swimming when she was just 3 years old and began taking swimming lessons. Her love for swimming did not stop at swimming lessons. Cassie swam competitively throughout her entire childhood and continued to swim competitively while in college. Cassie is thrilled to help others by combining her two passions – swimming and ABA!

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