Renfrewshire has dipped its toe into autism-friendly swimming for the very first time with the launch of bespoke swimming sessions at the ON-X in Linwood.

For one hour each week, the popular sports and leisure venue will make small adjustments which have a big impact on autistic children and their families. 

Music will be turned down and whistles will not be used within the vicinity of the pool to ensure a sensory-friendly environment where staff understand the needs of autistic children and their families.

The new sessions are being run with the support of The National Autistic Society Scotland’s Renfrewshire branch, a volunteer hub which organises activities and offers advice in the local community. 

Siobhan Hogg, Branch Manager at The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “Many autistic people have difficulty processing sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. 

"We support a number of families who told us they had been unable to enjoy visits to the ON-X, fearing that noise levels could cause their child to experience distress and lead to a meltdown. 

"I decided to get in touch to ask if the staff at the ON-X would like to know more about the small adjustments they could make so that families, like those our Renfrewshire branch supports, could visit. Swimming is a great form of exercise and there’s a fantastic choice of pools at the ON-X which cater for all ages. 

"We were delighted with their response – they were really enthusiastic about making the ON-X autism-friendly!”

Jenny Paterson, Director at The National Autistic Society Scotland, added: “I’m really pleased that the team at the ON-X has worked with our fantastic volunteers in Renfrewshire to make these sessions possible for local autistic people and their families."

Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, Joyce McKellar, said: “Our aim is to make sport and leisure activities available to everyone and when people come to enjoy our sports centres and swimming pools they feel welcome, relaxed and comfortable.

“Splashing around a busy and sometimes noisy swimming pool may be a normal activity for most people, but for those with autism that may not always be the case.

“So we’re slightly modifying what goes on during our special swimming sessions to create a calmer atmosphere in the pool that is more autism-friendly.”

The autism-friendly sessions take place every Sunday at the ON-X Linwood, from 1-2pm.