CA’s Aquatics Team Works to Become a Certified Autism Center™
Building on commitment to accessibility, CA is investing in training and facility upgrades that better serve families with neurodivergent members.
After a years-long effort, the Columbia Association (CA) Aquatics Division is just about a month away from earning the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) certification.
This certification is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), which ensures that autistic individuals and their families receive high-quality care and support. All 23 of CA’s outdoor pools will be certified.
“This is a meaningful step toward better serving individuals with autism that we’re incredibly proud of,” says CA Aquatics Director Marty Oltmanns. “IBCCES is recognized around the world as a leading benchmark for autism training and certification. This accreditation is another way that CA is working to prioritize accessibility and ensure that all families in Columbia feel fully welcome and supported in our spaces.”
An Ongoing Effort
For the past seven years, CA has partnered with the Howard County Autism Society to provide autism awareness training for our 300+ lifeguards and managers. This tradition has been instrumental in equipping our team with a deeper understanding of the autism community and the critical need for water safety.
The CA Aquatics team is excited to expand upon these efforts as part of the CAC certification, which requires that at least 80% of our team receive further specialized training in the field of autism. This certification is an ongoing commitment that will require employees to undergo training once every two years.
“This training gives our team even more knowledge and best practices to ensure individuals with autism and other sensory disorders enjoy the best possible experience at our pools,” says Oltmanns.
An audit of all 23 of CA’s outdoor pools was also conducted as part of the certification process. To meet the requirements set by IBCCES, CA invested in new graphic signage and various upgrades — such as comprehensive Sensory Guides, which help prepare children and families for their experience and the impact on their senses on a scale of 1-10. CA is also deploying sensory bags to each pool with tools like noise canceling headphones, water sensory timers and fidget toys.
CA’s Sensory-Friendly Pool
CA is also proud to support families with neurodivergent members by designating Macgill’s Commons Pool as a sensory-friendly pool this summer. This effort is in partnership with the Howard County Autism Society and accommodates children with autism who may have stop/start, transition or other issues. CA lifeguards permit children with autism to remain in the pool during adult swim (with advanced notice and under the supervision of an accompanying adult).
Official Announcement Coming Soon…
We’ll be sure to keep the community updated when CA officially receives the Certified Autism Center™ designation in about a month.🙌🏾
If you have any questions or suggestions, our team would love to hear from you! Feel free to contact CA Aquatics Director Marty Oltmanns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback is much appreciated as CA continues this journey to make our pools a welcoming and supportive place for all families.