Autism Respite | Denver YMCA

Autism Respite

One-on-one interaction and recreation for children with autism

At the YMCA, children with autism can find an essential outlet for fun and physical activity all in a controlled, safe environment. 

The aquatics-based Autism Respite Program gives kids an opportunity to move and exercise, while increasing their comfort and familiarity in the water, with other people, and in a recreational environment that is conducive to their special needs.

For each three-hour session, children are each paired with a qualified staff instructor. They start off in the pool, swimming for 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the interest of each child. From there they have a snack and then take advantage of the Child Watch  facility, dance studio, gymnasium, outside fields, or playground. Kids can play with balls and large foam toys, improving their gross motor skills, and run and move, getting essential exercise. The program also encourages socialization through group play and instructor interaction.

And because children are working one-on-one with an instructor, their time at the Y can be flexible, based on each child's needs and desires that day.

The program is offered throughout the year through grant monies from the Colorado Respite Coalition and other organizations.

More highlights

Qualified instructors. All YMCA Autism Respite Program instructors have completed Autism 101 training through the Joshua School and have experience and interest in working with children with special needs. Many of the staff are certified lifeguards and swim instructors, as well. 

One-on-one interaction. The child/instructor ratio is 1 to 1.

  • Swimming and autism. It's been shown that children with autism are drawn to the pool. They like the static pressure of the water and the way things sound when they are under water. 
  • Water exposure. The program is designed to improve children's aquatic safety skills. Children become more aware and comfortable in the water, and no experience or swimming ability is required.
  • Y values. As part of the YMCA, the program promotes youth development and a strong sense of community in an environment built on respect, responsibility, caring, and honesty.

Participation is limited, so contact the YMCA today. 


Call 720 524 2778 or email Clair Eades at

YMCA membership is not required, financial aid is available. The program is not limited to autism exclusively, and children experiencing other cognitive or developmental disabilities are welcome.

The Autism Respite Program partners with the following organizations: