Ask any scuba diver what they love most about being underwater, and besides the incredible scenery, they’ll like you tell you it’s how the experience makes them feel. Calm and relaxed, with all distractions left behind on the surface, scuba diving can have a profound effect on your mental state as soon as you descend.
This same principal has been the backbone of recent studies conducted by the Midwestern University, which looked at students and adults with autism, and the potential benefits a scuba diving experience could have on their condition.
The results were surprisingly optimistic. The researchers found that all the subjects who took up diving had a common experience.
They all found a sense of freedom under the water, where their auditory and visual distractions were more or less removed, and they could focus on the world around them. It was a calming effect, to be sure, and was a very welcome feeling for autism sufferers.
One mother shared her experience with scuba diving for a magazine for parents who have children with autism, and her story mirrored what the study found in its results.
Her 9-year-old son tried diving for the first time around his birthday, and the comfort he found was startling. He reported that it felt like it was like getting a hug, but without having to be touched – a wonderful sensation considering that her child did not like to be physically engaged.
The first trip was transformative, and the 9-year-old, (like many avid divers), quickly became addicted to the thrill of diving. By the age of 14, the boy was a certified diver and had already been on several diving expeditions, which included a trip to the Florida Keys to explore the warm reef-filled ocean waters. With no noises or outside stimulations, the mother reported that her son was finally able to simply relax.
The absence of sensory distractions isn’t the only reason for this relief for people with autism, the study stated. In addition to this less-hectic underwater world, kids and adults also feel that “hug” that the 9-year-old described just by the weight pressure.
Like a heavy blanket, the pressure combined with weightlessness has a soothing effect both on people with autism, as well as other conditions, such as down syndrome. While some folks were surprised by the study’s results, other groups weren’t shocked in the least.
Local and national organizations like the non-profit Diveheart, (which is dedicated to helping divers of all ages gain confidence through diving), noted scuba diving is therapeutic for anyone who takes to the sport – including and in particular for divers with autism.
So while additional studies on the links between diving and relieving autism will undoubtedly continue, in the immediate future, avid divers can rest assured that the calming feeling they garner as soon as they head underwater is not unusual in the least.
And in fact, in the not-so-distance future, it can lead to thousands of people finally being able to enjoy a temporary but life-changing sensation of peace and quiet.
Need more information on learning how to scuba dive? Check out our education section. If you live in the Dallas area, swing by our shop in Carrollton, and we’ll be happy to chat with you about scuba!