Swimming Buddies is a certified Autism Swim centre and was the first of its kind in Europe. We work in partnership with Belfast’s GLL Brook Activity centre,Fleming Fulton School and Templemore Baths to bring this essential life skill to more families. Our program has been running since 2017.
At Swimming Buddies we aim to help all our buddies reach their full potential in swimming and stay safe in the water while making some new friends along the way.
Being in the water can soothe the senses and be a sensory haven, in addition to being a great medium for activities such a which boasts an array of therapeutic benefits.
In addition to being qualified through Autism Swim, our coaches have experience in working with and supporting the needs of neurodivergent children such as those who are autistic, and working with children that have differing support needs due to disability and/or co-occurring conditions. Our coaches expertise allows them to deliver child centred learning, adaptable to each Buddie and their needs, using visual aids and supports to help with processing key points of swimming and water safety.
As our Buddies view, feel and understand the world in a unique way it means that the teaching process for learning to swim must be unique also; we’ll help our Buddies to stay safe in the water whilst meeting their specific needs,
Swimming Buddies - Fun & Friendship through Swimming.
“Autism Swim are an international wandering and drowning prevention specialists for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children with ASD, and Autism Swim is on a mission to change these statistics. Through wider community education and partnering with amazing services such as Swimming Buddies in certifying their staff, more families can receive the support that they need to keep their little one’s safe and happy”
Erika Gleeson – Founder Autism Swim
One on One Swimming
We match each Buddie with an appropriate coach who tailors their session to their individual needs.
Numbers at our pool are kept to a minimum and each session lasts 30 mins.
Small Group Swimming
We feel children work best alongside their peers and it gives everyone a chance to make some new Buddies, our sessions have a ratio of 1:1 and last 30 minutes. Coaches remain in the water at all times and we offer a quieter pool space with dimmed lights where possible to allow the best sensory experience. We make sure our Buddies get sometime to socialise at each session.
Fleming Fulton School, Malone Road, Belfast
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday
Brook Activity Centre, Summerhill Road, Dunmurry
Tuesday & Friday
Templemore Baths, Templemore Avenue Belfast Monday & Wednesday
Baby Buddies by request via firstname.lastname@example.org
At Baby Buddies, we give parents & guardians the skills and confidence to introduce their babies and pre-school children to the water. We create an environment with small classes where adults and children have time to focus on each other and increase their bond through physical/emotional contact and shared experiences.
We know when children feel happy, safe and supported they are ready to explore and learn. We provide opportunities where you can gently guide your little ones through a range of sensory activities that promotes exploration, stimulates their senses and helps them flourish both in and out of the water.
If you would like to arrange sessions for your parent & tots group or are a local community organisation who would like to run a program for your members please contact us on 07746724160 or email email@example.com for further information
All abilities from 0 - 3 years
Swimming Buddies was founded by Sarah Jane Reynolds, with over 15 years experience in Swim School management, Sarah Jane chose to specialise in offering sessions for children with other abilities in 2017.
Joel Lawson is team leader at Swimming Buddies and has been teaching children to swim for over 18 years. Both Joel and Sarah Jane are supported by a fully qualified team of 19 instructors.
At Swimming Buddies we want to share our knowledge with our fellow aquatics professionals and supporting staff in leisure facilities.
We offer full CPD accredited bespoke training services to the leisure industry helping to make your facility fully inclusive in the support of users with other abilities.
For more information on how to develop your teams please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sarah Jane on 07746724160
At Swimming Buddies our purpose is to save lives. We have an unwavering commitment to education, empowering changes and fostering inclusive practices.
We are delighted to work alongside our partners to bring this essential life skill to more families.
We also run a sister program 'FitBuddies' at CrossFit Berserk providing bespoke inclusive fitness classes to encourage co-ordination, strength, endurance, fun and inclusion. To register please click the FitBuddies logo, you can download our social stories via the links below.
What our Buddies say...
Claire and Carole Johnston-Thompson
"The progress our son has made with Swimming Buddies has been amazing - a highlight of his and our week - and this is due to the patient, talented and dedicated team!"
"We love Swimming Buddies. Our autistic daughter has learned to swim like a pro since starting over a year ago. She has made friends! Her class buddies are a lovely group and she is so excited to see her pals and coach every week . She says Swimmimg Buddies is the best part of the week. She has gained confidence in the water, and as well as learning to swim, has learned what to do if she falls in accidently. As parents we are delighted she has learnt these skills, developed relationships, confidence, independence and made friends. Swimming Buddies are super adaptive to our needs as a family, so welcoming each week - we love it - have made a big difference in the life of our daughter and to our family. Love getting to talk to the other parents to share experiences, and learn great tips for bringing up our wonderful children."
"Swimming buddies is the most amazing programme for teaching asd children a love of water and swimming. My son entered it in P5 to prepare him for swimming in school, he has made friends in his peer group and has went from clinging to the coach to swimming near lengths by himself. He used to be afraid of the water and I'm now confident he can use water safely and save himself if needed."
"As a mother of 2 autistic sons who hated water, I never thought I would see the day my children were in a swimming pool, let alone actually able to swim and having fun. The commitment, patience and professionalism at swimming buddies has meant my boys have had the opportunity to safely engage in an activity which would normally not cater for children with special needs. As a result, my children now take showers without distress, play in the pool on holiday, and most importantly, have learnt the vital skill of water safety. As a parent I cannot express my thank enough to the swimming buddies team for making this possible for my boys."
"The most fabulously dedicated people helping autistic children enjoy the water. We are so lucky to have found them. After 8 months we now have a 6 year old nonverbal autistic child not wanting to get out of the water. 8 months ago he hated any water and did not want to go in!! A new door has opened for all of us."
"Swimming buddies are like family caring for our special kids teaching them not only a life saving skill but also a skill that will bring enjoyment & health benefits. Sarah Jane and all the guys are professional, friendly but most of all celebrate with us parents when our kids achieve things. Understanding and patient with both children and parents. Who regularly face judgement. Not here, its welcoming, embracing. A place alot of us look forward to every week. I know for me personally having 3 children with special needs, it helps to keep me going. That 30 mins to watch without fear or anxiety. Meet others who are in similar positions. It's hard to believe its 2yrs, but amazing 2yrs it's been. I know my family & me have gained from having swimming buddies in our lives. Nothing is ever an issue. Cant speak highly enough of them. My girls adore the guys."
Swimming Buddies Social Stories
Meet Swimming Buddies Sammy the Seahorse!
Sammy will guide you through your Swimming Buddies journey from when you arrive to when you get in the pool.
You will also see the new faces of all our friendly coaches.
Sammy is an expert guide as well as a brilliant buddie. Don't forget to ask if you have any questions!
Welcome to Swimming Buddies - Click on your story below!
Child Protection Policy
If you would like a copy of our Child Protection Policy please click on the link below and we will email it to you.
We will not be liable to you for failure to perform any of our obligations if the venue is required to close by a force majeure event (meaning any cause beyond our reasonable control including without limitation, acts of God, war, insurrection, riot, civil disturbances, acts of terrorism, fire, explosion, flood, theft of essential equipment, malicious damage, strike, lock out, weather, third party injunction, national defence requirements, acts or regulations of national or local governments.)
Please note if we are unable to run sessions due to any of the above we will endeavour to offer a replacement class but refunds will not be possible.