Teens with Asperger Syndrome: How Swimming Changed One Teen’s Life

I was like many other teens with Asperger Syndrome. I didn't have many friends and struggled to fit in at school. Here's how swimming helped me.

A few years ago, I was like many other teens with Asperger Syndrome. I didn’t have many friends and struggled to fit in at school. As a result, I kept mostly to myself.

For fun, I’d have my mom take me to the library so that I could read and learn more about topics that interested me. I was often lonely, and desperately wanted to make a good friend, but either I struggled to connect with the kids in my class or they weren’t interested in connecting with me.

Help for Teens with Asperger Syndrome

But all of that changed when my parents put me in swim lessons. At first I was hesitant, I liked the water, but I wasn’t sure if swimming was something I’d be able to do well. My coach was very helpful and eventually my skills began to improve. When I started high school, he encouraged me to try out for the swim team. I was reluctant to do so, but I went for it, anyway. I made the team, and being on it has made high school a lot more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be.

Here are a few ways swimming has helped me:

It helped me build self-confidence. Before swimming, my parents tried to get me involved in many other sports and activities. Usually, they just added to my anxiety. As this article about another swimmer with autism notes, often sports and social situations can be overwhelming. But when I’m swimming, it’s just me and the water. Finding a physical activity I’m good at has been wonderful for my self-confidence and it has provided me with a way to form friendships on my team.

It made me stronger. Another reason I struggled with other sports is that my reflexes just didn’t seem to be as good as some of the other kids my age. I wasn’t as fast as them or as strong. But as this guide on the benefits of aquatic therapy for children with autism supports, swimming can help improve motor skills and build strength.

It helped me feel accepted. Before swimming, I never felt like I was a part of anything. School social activities usually ended up being a disaster. Instead of making friends, I’d spend the time off to the side by myself. This article from AutismSpeaks.org points out how sports offer a great socialization outlet for kids with autism. And I agree, it also helps teens with Asperger Syndrome.

Being on the swim team has helped me tremendously. My teammates always cheer me on and help me out. When I’m not sure what to talk about with them, we can always talk about swimming.

It made me less anxious. This article from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that exercise has proven to be an efficient and effective way for people to ease their anxiety. Swimming has certainly helped me. Just being in the water is very relaxing for me, even when I’m in a race. And when I’m having a bad day, it helps me work out my frustrations. In fact, sometimes just knowing that I’ll be able to get in the pool later in the day can help calm me down when my anxiety or frustrations threaten to take over.

I’m so thankful that my parents decided to put me in swimming. It has changed my life in many positive ways. I highly recommend that other kids with Asperger Syndrome give it a try.

If you’re a teen with Asperger’s, what activities have benefited you? Let me know in the comments below!

Published on: July 05, 2015
About the Author
Photo of Allie Gleason
Allie Gleason, a teen with Asperger's Syndrome, is part high school student, part volunteer-intern-extraordinaire at EducatorLabs, part cheerleader for all those affected by ASD.
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Recent Comments

Hi Allie,
As you must be aware, Autism and Asperger’s is the result of working with one side of the brain only.
Usually the logical side. The emotional side does not get activated.
This is often caused by a malfunctioning corpus callosum, the body of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain.

Signals constantly travel between the right and left brain and this gives us a complete picture of what is going on in the world.
It is a bit like looking at the world with only one eye. You lose perspective and depth. General Moshe Dayan lost an eye in a skirmish with the French in the desert and in his autobiography describes the difficulty of seeing with one eye. He could not judge distance and kept tripping over things.

Asperger’s is similar. You need both sides of the brain to function in order to understand jokes, for instance. One side hears the words, and the other side the meaning. If you put these two together you understand the joke.

A Florida researcher, Robert Cade and his co-workers and colleagues have identified a milk protein, casomorphin, as the probable cause of attention deficit disorder and Asperger’s. They found Beta-casomorphin-7 in high concentrations in the blood and urine of patients with either schizophrenia or Asperger’s.
The main protein in cow’s milk is casein. This protein breaks down in the intestine to produce a peptide casomorphine, an opiate. Another researcher found that casomorphin could cause or aggravate the symptoms of Aspergers or Autism.
Another researcher wrote; “The quantities of these compounds, as found in the urine, are much too large to be of central nervous system origin.
The quantities are such that they can only have been derived from the incomplete breakdown of certain foods.”
Allergies causes incomplete breakdown of foods.
And dairy is the most allergenic substance in the human diet.
Zinc is an essential nutrient for the brain function. Perhaps taking 75 mg daily with the main meal would be of benefit. Constantinidis found that brain health improves with Zinc. (Zinc: Immune System, Pregnancy, Alzheimer’s and Acne)
Chlorine is a deadly poison. Chlorine -“A Crippler and Killer”by Charlie Skeen, is worth reading unless you swim in a salt water pool.
Good luck!