Swimming lessons in early childhood


Samantha asks for funding for private swimming lessons for her 4 year old son, Patrick. Patrick has a developmental delay or disability and is unable to fully take part in lessons without support.

Would we fund this?

No, we would not usually fund private swimming lessons. These supports are unlikely to be value for money. Australian parents and carers are responsible for the cost associated with making sure their children are safe in and around water. 

Under the Act, supports need to help the participant take part in social and economic activities. They do this through helping the participant access age-appropriate social opportunities. The supports must show value for money in relation to both benefits of the support and the cost of similar supports. We must also consider what families and other informal supports would usually provide.

Why don’t we fund this?

We don’t fund supports if there are likely to be more cost-effective things that help the participant access social activities. 

If you have a goal for your child to do swimming lessons, we might fund the developmental delay or disability-related supports or assistive technology to help your child have the same opportunities as their peers. This means we may cover supports your child needs to take part in swimming lessons or water safety awareness activities. 

Reasonable adjustments can be explored for swimming lesson options within your local area. For example:

  • can the swim centre offer small-group sessions to allow for a quieter environment?
  • can the swim program be developed or adjusted to help your child?

When we work out whether a support is reasonable and necessary for your child, we consider the information you’ve provided against the NDIS Funding Criteria.

You can also use your child’s existing capacity building budget to work with their early intervention team to develop and share strategies with a qualified swim instructor. This can help your child be included in swimming lessons. 

Typically, parents of very young children aged younger than three years old take part in swimming lessons with their child. This gives the child physical help and emotional support while in the water. For this reason, we don’t general including funding for this support in their plan because parents are expected to take part due to the age of their child.

For children older than three who still need physical help and emotional support, we would still expect the family or carer to provide this if it is reasonable for them to do so. We need to take into account the role of informal supports before adding extra funding.

What else do we think about?

We recognise the importance for all children to have the chance to take part in group activities. Group swimming lessons are a social activity and promote vital learning and development of skills in children. 

We do not fund group swimming lessons as these are day-to-day living costs. Everyone has to pay for them whether or not they have a developmental delay or disability. 

For school aged children, we need to consider the state-government funded swimming program run through the child’s school. This, or other mainstream services, might be a more appropriate way to fund or provide swimming lessons for your child. 

Case example

Tommy is four years old and has recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His family are supporting him to increase his participation in community activities. This includes group-based swimming lessons that other children his age typically do. Due to Tommy’s sensory sensitivities and communication barriers, his behaviour escalates during his swimming lessons. This leads to emotional and behavioural outbursts that pose significant safety risks and disruptions to the class.

Tommy’s mother asks us for funding so Tommy can do private swimming lessons to:

  • learn to swim
  • build his capacity to take part in future social and community activities.

To work out whether the funding for private swimming lessons is reasonable and necessary, we’ll look at the information Tommy’s mother gives us against the NDIS Funding Criteria, such as:

  • Are these supports needed solely and directly because of Tommy’s developmental delay or disability needs? 
  • Is there evidence that Tommy’s family or early intervention team explored all reasonable alternatives and mainstream options? Have they considered all reasonable adjustments to mainstream options?
  • Is it reasonable to expect families or carers to give extra help for a 4 year old during a swimming lesson? If so, is there evidence that Tommy’s parents or carers can’t do this due to pool restrictions or other responsibilities such as caring for a sibling during the swimming lesson? 

In Tommy’s case, the planner decides private swimming lessons are not reasonable and necessary. This is due to a number of factors:

  • There is no evidence that the private swimming lessons would help Tommy take part in social and community activities. Taking Tommy out of group swimming lessons would, in fact, limit his opportunities to take part in social and community activities.
  • There is no evidence that all reasonable alternatives and mainstream options have been explored. 
  • Given that alternative options for Tommy remaining in the group lessons had not been fully explored, the planner does not think private swimming lessons are the most effective and beneficial option to help Tommy learn to swim. They also aren’t the best value for money in relation to benefits provided.
  • It would be reasonable to expect a parent or carer to continue to support Tommy with learning to swim. The planner sees no evidence or any reason Tommy’s parents or carers couldn’t help him in the pool. 

In Tommy’s case, the planner:

  • declined funding for private swimming lessons
  • told Tommy’s child representative there was already funding in the plan for capacity building supports for early childhood intervention
  • recommended the family could use this funding to pay for an early intervention therapy provider to help build Tommy’s capacity to tolerate being in the water before he began swimming lessons. 

The planner also suggested the family could use Tommy’s capacity building funding so the early intervention therapy provider can share strategies to support the swim program to make reasonable adjustments. The therapist could attend the group sessions to teach the swimming instructor and Tommy’s parents some techniques to best support Tommy in the swimming lesson.  
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This page current as of
20 April 2021
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