MSP Rona Mackay has written to Mark Grant, General Manager of East Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust, to ask for a quiet hour in all pools for children and adults with autism, and other sensory conditions.
Research has revealed that people with autism who engage in activities such as swimming, tennis or other recreational activities, allows for increased strength, endurance, co-ordination, and motor skills.
Ms Mackay said: “After a local constituent contacted me about his young son, I wanted to try and raise awareness of Autism and the benefit activities such as swimming can have on their well-being.
“Swimming pools can be a sensory overload for individuals with autism and I hope the Leisure Trust can engage with Scottish Autism to discuss a way forward to make these already wonderful Leisure Centres more accessible to people with autism, and other sensory conditions.
“I would also encourage other retail and hospitality businesses to become more welcoming and accessible to autistic individuals and their families. Scottish Autism has recently launched a new guidance document which can be accessed at: https://www.scottishautism.org/myfive”
Copy of letter sent to Mark Grant
Rona Mackay MSP
Strathkelvin and Bearsden
25 March 2019
East Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust,
12 Strathkelvin Place,
Kirkintilloch, G66 1TJ
Dear Mr Grant,
Next week is World Autism Awareness Week, and this year promises to be one of the biggest for fundraising and awareness.
I am writing to you to raise awareness of the benefits exercise can have for children and adults who have autism, as well as a request that could help increase their wellbeing.
Research tells us that people with autism who engage in activities such as swimming, tennis or other recreational activities, allows for increased strength, endurance, coordination, and motor skills. Children with autism tend to have poorer muscular strength and endurance and research has shown us that exercising significantly improves this.
Physical activity also allows people with autism to overcome barriers such as limited motor functioning, self-monitoring, and other challenges they may experience. Skills such as tying shoelaces, or riding a bike can be difficult as they involve sequences of movements.
Engaging in these activities for 20 minutes or more, 3 to 4 days a week can also cause a decrease in self-stimulatory behaviour, hyperactivity, aggression, self-injury, and destructiveness. This is not something that happens overnight but in due time you will start seeing improvements in the children.
Swimming helps relax our muscles and decreases stress, as well as stress and impact on our bodies – which is great for children who sometimes feel like their own body is too much to handle. Water provides a safe environment for children to learn how to regulate the force their body exerts when playing or working.
Lessons can help improve children’s attention span, concentration, impulse control, and ability to follow directions. It requires lots of energy and can decrease hyperactivity, which does help children to concentrate on tasks afterwards. Lessons also encourage social skills and can help with speech with activities such as blowing bubbles in the water and learning to regulate their breath, which can improve oral articulation.
As well as raising awareness, I wanted to ask if the East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust (EDLCT) would introduce a weekly quiet hour within the Bishopbriggs Leisuredrome (including the waterslide), and other pools throughout East Dunbartonshire.
Most swimming pools can be a sensory overload for people with autism and I would encourage you to engage with Scottish Austism to discuss a way forward to make these already wonderful Leisure Centres become more accessible to people with autism – and other sensory conditions.
I am always happy to meet to discuss this further, and would encourage EDLTC to introduce this.
Rona Mackay MSP
Motion submitted to Scottish Parliament on 21 February 2019 which received cross party support:
That the Parliament welcomes World Autism Awareness Week, which takes place on 1 to 7 April 2019, and hopes that this year will be bigger and better than ever before by raising awareness and much needed cash to help create a society that works for people with autism by increasing exposure and knowledge of this important issue, and notes that the awareness week celebrates the talents of people with autism and all those who take part in fundraising for such a deserving cause in workplaces, schools and communities around the world.