LIFE

Swimming Helped Transform A Little Boy With Autism Into A World-Class Athlete

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

I’ve always found swimming to be incredibly soothing. There’s something very mellowing about floating free of gravity without being subject to all of the forces of our environment.

As it turns out, I might be on to something more than a personal preference. Doctors now believe that swimming is helpful for calming agitation in people and even in animals, but particularly in autistic children

That has certainly been the case for Charles Cobbert, a 17-year-old who was diagnosed with autism at age three. He had a few difficult years in early childhood, not talking until he reached the age of five, but everything changed the first time he took a dip in a swimming pool.

Something about being in the water helped Charles detach from the sensory overload that often affects people with autism.

Many people on the spectrum have devised ways to self-soothe by engaging in repetitive motion like hand-flapping or pacing when over-stimulated. Swimming, a repetitive aerobic activity, allows Charles to channel his energy more productively.

According to his mother, almost all of his self-soothing behaviors were absorbed when Charles started swimming. The result is that he has now been pursuing his sport for more than fourteen years, and is an accomplished, nationally-ranked athlete.

Next year, Charles will bring his skill in the pool to college, where he will swim for Montclair State. His opinion on the subject? “I always swim for life. It’s my main sport. I always love it.”

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