Swimming Buddies



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Swimming Buddies is an accredited Autism Swim centre the first of its kind in Europe. We also work in partnership with Belfast’s GLL Brook Activity centre to bring this essential life skill to more families.


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. 

For children with autism swimming can be a very therapeutic activity, calming the sensory overloads of our world. As autistic children view, feel and understand the world in a unique way it means that the teaching process for learning to swim must be unique also.


Our coaches have experience with children with autism and understand the best teaching techniques to use while helping children to stay safe in the water. Coaches have wide and varied experience and focus on child centered learning with adaptable teaching methods, using visual aids and supports to help with processing key points of swimming and water safety.



“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


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.


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 to allow the best sensory experience.

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. 


Join us at Brook sensory pool for sessions beginning Thursday 23rd September 


All abilities from 0 - 3 years 


12noon  & 12.30pm 



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Swimming Buddies was founded by Sarah Jane Woods, with over 10 years experience in Swim School management Sarah Jane chose to specialise in offering sessions for children with autism 3 years ago. 


Joel Laswon is a team leader at Swimming Buddies and has been teaching children for over 16 years. Both Joel and Sarah Jane are supported by a fully qualified team of 13 instructors. 


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 at Brook Leisure Centre 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 a sense of belonging. 


Fleming Fulton School, Malone Road, Belfast 
Sessions currently run on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.

Brook Activity Centre, Summerhill Road, Dunmurry
Sessions run on Tuesday evenings on a one to one basis only.
Baby Buddies Thursdays 12 & 12.30pm.

Claire and Carole Johnston-Thompson

What Our Buddies Say >


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!

Linda Thompson

What Our Buddies Say >


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

Claire Ratican

Why We're Great >


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.

What Our Buddies Say >

Leach McElveen


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

What Our Buddies Say >

Debbie Smith

Why We're Great >


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.

What Our Buddies Say >

Mairie Devlin

Why We're Great >


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

What Our Buddies Say >


Swimming Buddies Social Story

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.


Welcome to Swimming Buddies at the Brook Leisure Centre!

Welcome to Swimming Buddies at Lagan Valley LeisureCentre!

Before every class the below form must be filled in by parents.

It only takes a minute and is very easy to do!

Please watch the video to see how submit.


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.

Refund Policy

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.

Session fees must be paid in full at the beginning of term, fees will not be deducted for missed classes.

If you would like any clarification please email us info@swimmingbuddies.co.uk

Many Thanks

The Team @ Swimming Buddies


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