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"One Stroke at a Time"
When 10 year old Daniel first started at MarTar, we found it challenging to get him to walk appropriately from the car to the pool. Either he would drop down and refuse to move, run to the pool and jump in or run around the school to avoid the lesson. So we started from the beginning.
- Teaching him how to walk into the school.
- Showing him how to change in the changing rooms.
- Teaching him to walk to the pool and wait for his teacher by sitting on the side of the pool.
Then we taught Daniel to get in the water, put his face in the water, and blow bubbles. Since Daniel is currently nonverbal, communicating can be tricky. We use a schedule board so he knows what equipment is being used and this gives him the opportunity to point out what is next. Each lesson lasts 30 minutes and we stick with the same schedule for each lesson. At MarTar nearly all the lessons for students with autism are one on one…which I strongly encourage.
When Daniel performs a task on his schedule, he is rewarded. After each segment of the lesson he gets to have a certain amount of “under water” time. Daniel loves the water and he seems to find peace and happiness when he holds his breath and goes under, but he knows he still needs to continue working hard during the lesson.
Daniel has really found a great deal of success in the time we have known him. If we sit back and watch him now, he will walk to the changing room…take off his clothes…walk to the pool door and wait. When greeted, he walks to the deck and sits. He follows every aspect of the lesson and leaves with no issues or concerns.
I think it’s important for each student to get the basics of being around the pool before they even get in. Social stories, practice and repetition are crucial. Sometimes even teaching the child using the same lane of the pool is essential.
Swimming is a life skill. Once we can teach a child with autism how to swim or to at least be “safer” * in and around the water, then they can be social with their friends and family.
* we use the word “safer” instead of safe because no one is ever safe in or around water. At any time, there is danger and potential for drowning. Taken from the Safer 3 Swim for Life Foundation program. Please reference them or use their link for more information. www.safer3.org
-Tara Girch, Co-Owner MarTar Swim School
6801 Douglas Legum Dr. Suite A
Elkridge, Md 21075