Angela could tell her son, Daniel, loved the water from a young age. There was just something about it that soothed him. When he was frustrated or upset, a bath would calm him. Water was—and still is—his therapy.
Now nine years old, Daniel, who has autism and ADHD, participates in 1:1 swimming lessons offered by Autism Society, Newfoundland and Labrador, funded in part by GoodLife Kids Foundation.
“This program has been incredible for him because the staff are specifically trained to work with kids with autism,” Angela says. “It’s made a huge difference for us.”
Sarah White, Family & Community Services Officer at Autism Society, Newfoundland and Labrador, says the organization started the 1:1 swimming lessons about 10 years ago.
“We saw a huge need. In a typical pool setting, there’s a lot of stimulation and sensory overload that might be overwhelming for kids with autism,” she says. “Here, we can take things slow and work one-on-one with the kids, whatever their goals are.”
The staff and volunteers leading the program try to make lessons as enjoyable as possible for the participants, knowing many of them face a variety of challenges in their day-to-day lives. Simply having one activity to can look forward to each week can really help a program participant, Sarah says. It gives them an opportunity to unwind, be themselves, and have some fun.
Swimming does wonders for kids physically, but Angela says it’s been instrumental to Daniel’s social development, too. Pool parties, summer camps, and trips to the beach are all popular activities for any nine-year-old. Thanks to Autism Society, Newfoundland and Labrador and GoodLife Kids Foundation, Daniel can take advantage of these opportunities, too.
“Swimming is of course a great life skill, but it also opens so many doors for kids,” Angela says. “Now he can go to birthday parties at a classmate’s pool. He can go to summer camp. He can meet up with friends in the summer and swim. He just needed that confidence.”
The 1:1 swimming lessons have been life-changing for Daniel, but it’s been incredible for Angela, too. Watching her son build confidence and become more independent each day has taken a weight off her shoulders.
“As a parent of a child with special needs, you constantly fear the future. What if he can never do the things other kids can?” she says. “Finding this program and seeing Daniel succeed and become confident has been incredible. I’m just so grateful.”
GoodLife Kids Foundation raises funds to remove barriers and provide physical activity opportunities for kids with special needs all across Canada, just like Daniel. To date, GoodLife Kids Foundation has benefitted more than 257,000 kids across Canada!