The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

AUTISM LIVE TV on Learn-to-swim

Jim Reiser and Vi Hendley, authors and producers of Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Swim, were recently featured as special guests on Autism Live TV.

Autism Live is an interactive webshow providing support, resources, information, facts, entertainment and inspiration to parents, teachers and practitioners working with children on the Autism Spectrum.  We are happy to share with you this special segment, hosted by Shannon Penrod and Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, about learn-to-swim for children on the autism spectrum.

Shannon Penrod is the proud mother of a nine-year old who is recovering from Autism. Her son Jem was diagnosed at the age of two and a half after having lost virtually all of his language and social skills.

Helping her son on his journey through Autism became Shannon’s top priority. Whether it was researching new diets, learning the legal ins and outs of special education law or finding funding for ABA therapy, Shannon became her son’s best advocate and an advocate for many other families. In 2009, Shannon began the host and producer of Everyday Autism Miracles, a weekly radio show that focuses solely on Autism and hope.

An award winning stand-up comedienne, director and author, Shannon’s goal is to provide families with information and hope while on their journey through autism.

Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson is an Emmy award-winning, former national television producer and executive who pioneered the magazine program format with Westinghouse’s PM Magazine. After serving as Vice-President of Group W Productions, she served as executive producer for a number of network and nationally syndicated programs, including the long-running NBC talk show, LEEZA. A former high-powered television producer turned author and activist on the subject of fearless aging and autism awareness. She co-authored Not Your Mother’s Midlife: A Ten Step guide to Fearless Aging (Andrews McMeel) and Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). She wrote and performed in the stage show “Boomer Babes” and has done motivational speaking to sold out audiences around the country.

She has been honored with the United Press International Award, the Associated Press Award, the Gabriel Award, the Genesis Award, as well as having been named one of the Hollywood Reporters “Women to Watch”. Having grown up with a younger brother with Down Syndrome, Alspaugh-Jackson was aware of the challenges families face raising special needs children. She feels it was no accident that she was given a special needs child to raise herself. Alspaugh-Jackson feels her most important assignment came after her adopted son Wyatt was diagnosed with autism at the age of three (Wyatt is now 11 and making tremendous progress). Although Wyatt started displaying signs of autism at the age of 2, he was not diagnosed with the disorder until three and a half and did not receive effective treatment until the age of four and a half.

With that in mind she began working to help other families find the resources for autism care and treatment. She became the executive director of ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide resources and fund grants for children whose families cannot afford the necessary tools their child needs to reach their full potential.

In the last five years, she has raised 5 million dollars for autism care and treatment, and launched the first national campaign for military children with autism, ACT Today! for Military Families.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


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December 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm Comments (0)

Wetsuits and Swimming Lessons

Have you ever tried a wetsuit for teaching?

Have you ever thought about a wetsuit for your “learn-to-swim” students?

While I started wearing a wetsuit back when I taught in “unheated  pools,” now even when I teach in heated, warm water pools (87 plus degrees)–I won’t teach in anything else!


  1. I’m a better teacher when I’m warm!
  2. I use a fraction of the sunscreen which is not only quite convenient, my savings in sunscreen probably will pay for the wetsuit in a few years (as much as I’m in the pool)!
  3. When I wear my speedos, my fellow male instructors are usually intimidated by my overpowering muscular physique (LOL)!

What about babies & young children?

Both of my boys, Jeb almost 7 and Nolan  20 mos., love to wear their wetsuits.  Now that Jeb is getting a little order, he doesn’t wear it exclusively, but he still wears it alot.   In fact, last summer we visited Johnstown, PA and went swimming at the Windber Recreation Pool.   Even though the water was like 75 degrees tops, Jeb had a blast and was in the pool for hours because of his wetsuit.

The Konfidence swimming wetsuits such as the Baby Warma and  the Child’s Swimming Wetsuit are just awesome investments.   Not only are the children happier in the pool because they are warm, I have found there are several other benefits:

1.  The neoprene material lasts forever!  Nolan is now wearing Jeb’s old wetsuit and it’s in fantastic condition.

2.  Children don’t grow out of the wetsuits overnight.  With adjustable velcro shoulder straps, Jeb probably got two years out of this first wetsuit that Nolan is now wearing.

3.  Even when the water is warm, even 85 degree air can feel cool when your wet if there’s a little breeze.   But with the wetsuit on, your child never catches a chill!

And of course all the same benefits I mentioned for adults or swim teachers apply to children, such as sunscreen savings and UV protection.  If you thought you or your child liked the pool before, wait until you get a wetsuit–you’ll never get out!

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April 4, 2010 at 11:18 am Comments (0)

Super Swim Teachers are not found–they are made!

Here is a recent email I received:

Coach Jim,
I don’t know where you find your swim teachers, but I’ve got one thing to say… “Keep up the good work!”

My son Zach has been w/Ms Kali at Still Hopes on the Saturday am class. She has worked the class well to suit his needs.   Due to his autism, sometimes he can have trouble w/things as I am sure you can imagine.  He LOVES the water though, so we wanted to take the opportunity to utilize that to our advantage.

Zach works so hard for Coach Kali & has grown a lot over the last few weeks.  We will all miss swim class until January comes!  It is so awesome as a parent watching him striving for something & be able to acheive it.  I know it would not be possible though, without a dedicated teacher who wants to see my son excel as much as I do. This is Zach’s 2nd class & at both classes he has had wonderful teachers.

I just had to write you & let you know how pleased we are & for you to please give Ms Kali & BIG high-five & a “thank you!”  Please contiue to keep up the GREAT work!!!
– Crystal & John T.

Jim comments:

There is nothing more  rewarding than getting emails like these . . . . but these emails are not an accident.   At The Swim Lessons Company, we don’t find great teachers, we make them!  Yes, we do find good people but that is really the easy part.  The hard part is putting together a staff of teachers who will consistently earn you the testimonials like the one you read above.

Swim Lessons University was developed to do just that.  In fact,  the DVD video Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder was instrumental in the comments above on Coach Kali.

Yes, you can find a good water safety instructor here or there.  But if you want to grow your school and create a swim school where you can actually guarantee “learning and laughter,” you can’t expect just to find great swim instructors–you have to make them!  And holds the key to your success!

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November 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm Comments (2)

How to Teach a Preschooler to Swim

How to Teach a Preschooler to Swim

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Would you like to hear how to make teaching your 3 & 4 year olds more fun and effective? Enjoy some terrific teaching techniques and even watch some FREE video footage from “Swim 101,” How to Teach Young Children to Swim in 8 hours or Less! Oh, and you will also see some really cool “before & after” shots too!


  1. Use the “Right way vs. the Wrong Way” technique when giving feedback and demonstrating skills (see attached video clip).
  2. Make Learning to Swim Fun! Keep your preschool lessons more interactive and engaging through the use of activities, stories, puppets, songs, and other props (as seen in Swim 101).
  3. Keep the children “on task” by minimizing down time, using clear “start & stop signals,” and using class management skills while keeping the learning environment positive.
  4. Use sound teaching progressions. You’ll see a couple examples in the free video clip, i.e., underwater footage of breath holding and breath control and a back kick support progression. This is just the beginning of all the fundamental skill progressions from the Swim 101 DVD.
  5. Keep your demonstrations short and to the point–but accurate. Preschoolers don’t have a lot of patience BUT they will be motivated to do it just like YOU!
  6. Limit your corrective feedback, and celebrate even the smallest of achievements. Do this, and both the children and their parents will LOVE your class.
  7. Limit formal instruction time to 25-30 minutes for a class of 2-4 children, 20-25 minutes for private lessons. You don’t want your students to be “ready for class to end,” rather you want them leaving your lesson already “looking forward to the next one!”


This video will show you just over 3 minutes of video samples from Jim Reiser’s World Famous “Swim 101” DVD: How to Teach Young Children to Swim and Be Safer in the Water. The entire DVD is available at


  • Visit and click Kids Swimmming Lessons to learn more from Jim Reiser, “The Swim Professor!”

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Teach a Preschooler to Swim. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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November 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm Comments (0)

3 Success Strategies for Teaching Children to Swim with Autism

How to Teach Children to Swim With Autism

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
In the new DVD, Teaching Children to Swim with Austism Spectrum Disorder,Vi Hendley, M.Ed. & Autism Resource Specialist and Jim Reiser,M.S., “The Swim Professor,” share 10 Success Strategies Every Teacher Should Know. In today’s article, while you won’t get to see the video, we will share with you three of those important techniques.


  1. Don’t Use the “Right way vs. the Wrong Way” technique. When your teaching children with ASD, however, it’s really best to AVOID this technique. One characteristic of children with ASD is they tend to pick up on irrelevant details. In other words, you even have to be extra careful when demonstrating that everything you show your students is precisely what you want them to do.
  2. Use a Child’s Special Interests. Students with ASD are often very focused on a particular object or topic of interest. Using a child’s interest may be the most important technique you can use to capture and hold their attention during lessons. These interests can be as varied as the children themselves, so remain open to most anything, from food to superman to jellyfish or sharks! Follow your student’s lead; a student that is engaged is a student who is learning. Whatever you do, continue to involve your student’s special interest throughout the lesson.
  3. Use Visual Supports. In one ear and out the other, out of sight is out of mind. Because students with autism have difficulty with retaining auditory information, these old sayings are so true for children with ASD. And because children with ASD tend to be visual learners, it is so important to have your rules, techniques, and expectations in a visual format.


Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Teach Children to Swim With Autism. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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October 22, 2009 at 4:59 pm Comment (1)

Swimming Lessons and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Jim Reiser, M.S., The Swim Professor
Vi Hendley, M.Ed., Autism Resource Specialist

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a life-long developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is thought to be the result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain.

Symptoms & Characteristics can include:

  • Lack or delay in speech
  • Fascination with objects rather than people
  • Repetitive use of language
  • Odd or repetitive body movements or mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Resistance to physical contact
  • Decreased empathy
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

Having ASD makes it exceptionally difficult for individuals to communicate with others and relate to the outside world.

Autism is currently our nation’s most prevalent childhood developmental disorder. Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control show that as many as one in 166 children born today are on the autism spectrum.

Is ASD Treatable?

ASD is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” ASD, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Introduction to Teaching Children with ASD

Children with autism are being turned down by the dozen in cities across America just like yours. Not because swim teachers don’t want to help, but because most swimming instructors don’t feel like they have the knowledge necessary to teach these special children successfully–and most of them don’t.

I recently teamed up with Vi Hendley, who brings in 28 years of teaching experience with individuals who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In addition to some of the Success Strategies that we will share with you in this article, we a DVD called TEACHING CHILDREN WITH AUSTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER that you can order, which will afford you with the background and strategies you need to be successful, and so that you can leave your mark on a child that could change his life forever.



Review Parent/Provider Checklist Before Your First Class

Before you starting teaching a child with ASD, it is absolutely imperative that you have an understanding your student’s individual needs. To do this, take these three steps:

STEP #1:

Require the parent to complete the Student Learning Assessment
of the child’s individual needs. (You can purchase the form we use for just $5.00 on our website at

STEP #2:

Prior the first class—Review the Students Learning Assessment.


Make any necessary adaptations based on the Student Learning Assessment!

In our instructional DVD for swim teachers, Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can see real examples of how the Student Learning Assessment can help you.


Determine if You Have Enough Rapport

How do you do this? First, this may depend on the level of the ASD. If your student is high functioning, you can likely build rapport fairly easily by simply talking about his special interests.

In the DVD video, you can see howI learned from the assessment my student’s mother completed for me that he loved to pretend about SHARKS AND JELLY FISH. So before we even got in the water, I was able to develop a rapport with Phillip by talking about the sharks and jellyfish.

And he could hardly wait get in the pool and start pretending.


Implement the Exaggerated Affect

Kids with ASD characteristically have difficulty reading the facial expressions of others. So another strategy that’s proven to be effective is to exaggerate your facial expression. You can do this when giving instructions and most importantly when giving feedback.


Show it EXACTLY the Right Way—NEVER the Wrong Way

If you’re familiar with “The Swim Professor’s” Teach Like a Pro DVD, one of the techniques you can us so effectively when teaching young children to swim is the “Right way vs. the wrong way” technique. When your teaching children with ASD, however, it’s really best to avoid this technique.

One characteristic of children with ASD is they tend to pick up on irrelevant details. So you even have to be extra careful when demonstrating the right way that everything you show your students is precisely what you want them to do.


Use Visual Supports

In one ear and out the other, out of sight is out of mind. Because students with autism have difficulty with retaining auditory information, these old sayings are so true for children with ASD. And because children with ASD tend to be visual learners, it is so important to have your rules, techniques, and expectations in a visual format.

I was amazed at how effective these Visual Support cards were from the first time I saw Vi use them. On our DVD program, you can see how the children zero in on these. In fact, I like them so much, I asked Vi to pick her favorite cards and make them available for you. So if you would like to have your own personal set of Vi’s laminated visual supports, you can order them right on our website at

If you would like to learn more SUCCESS STRATEGIES for Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can order the brand new instructional DVD at

I hope some of the ideas that Vi and I shared with you today will help you be more effective and most importantly, make your classes more enjoyable for both you and your students.

April 8, 2009 at 11:32 am Comments (2)