Pinellas swim instruction caters to children with autism

Image 1 of 2

Swimming from one end of the pool to the other is something Ben Wiseman has worked hard to master.

The 10-year-old is on the autism spectrum, making him 50 percent more likely to drown than other children. His father, Matt is on a mission to change that statistic.

"One of the things with kids with autism is they're very attracted to water, for some reason," said Matt Wiseman. "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."

Matt says children with autism need a special approach to swim lessons.

"One of our missions is to drown proof every child with autism in Pinellas County," Matt said.

He started the Pinellas Autism Project two years ago. Since then, he's taught more than 100 kids how to swim.

"We take the kids to a local pool and we have special instructors that work with the children," Wiseman said.

Behavioral therapists like Andrew Coet work closely with each child.

"Especially in Florida, there’s pools everywhere, water everywhere. It’s definitely a skill we’d like them to have, just in case, for the safety aspect of it," Andrew Coet said.

The program is more than swimming. Children are taught how to pull themselves out of a pool, with and without a ladder.

The program runs during the summer months and classes last an hour and a half every week. To learn more, you can contact the Pinellas Autism Project at 727-483-1305 or visit