Seashell, has partnered with the University of Salford to deliver the Salford Autism Exercise Project which aims to test whether exercise can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with their sleep and, in turn, their ability to learn new words.

In the UK approximately 1% of the population has ASD.  Specifically, it is estimated that around 150,000 children and their families are living with the condition.

Many families of children with ASD worry about communication difficulties, as learning new words can be harder for children with ASD than for their typically developing peers. Children with ASD also often have trouble sleeping. We know that sleep is important for consolidating memories, including learning the meaning of new words and how to use them appropriately, so this lack of sleep may make it even more difficult for children with ASD to develop their communication skills.

The Salford Autism Exercise Project will monitor children’s sleep before, during and after exercise. Those participating will also be tested on their ability to learn new words at three points throughout the intervention, to assess whether exercise and/or improved sleep has any benefits for word‐learning.

Seashell will deliver free inclusive swimming lessons for children taking part in the project and will work with researchers from the University of Salford to assess whether exercise and/or improved sleep has any benefits.  Inclusive swimming lessons will be led by a Seashell Active Swim Teacher at Seashell’s Cheadle Hulme site. The results will be compared with another group who will not part in the swimming lessons, though they will be able to enjoy swimming at Seashell once the research programme is complete.

Seashell’s Joint Head of Active, Heather Potter, said: “Our Active team have delivered inclusive swimming lessons for over 10 years and are very experienced in teaching swimming to people of all abilities. We are delighted to partner with the University of Salford to work on the Autism Exercise Project.

The team are looking forward to working with the participants and we hope to see increased sleep time and sleep quality for the children. It is fantastic to work with the University on such an exciting, important and impactful project.”

Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Salford, Dr Amy Bidgood, said: “The Salford Autism Exercise Project is all about supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders/Conditions and their families to improve sleep through exercise.

We are lucky to be working with Seashell as our partners on this project as they have such great staff and facilities for the swimming lessons, as well as the expertise and experience of working with children with ASD and their families.

For further details about the Salford Autism Exercise Project, please contact