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Layla’s Story

Leaping into Summertime Fun (with a side benefit of safety!)

Layla stood on the edge of the diving board, support worker by her side and lifeguard waiting in the pool. With a big leap, Layla jumped as high as she could into the pool. This was the first time that 6-year-old Layla had jumped in the pool on her own – a huge milestone for her and her family.

Layla, who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is an outdoor-loving grade 1 student with autism. The water is one of her favourite things and Layla’s parents wanted to make sure she understood the fundamentals of swimming and how to be safe around water. It was challenging for her family to find a program that could meet Layla’s needs and would offer one-to-one support, while still being affordable.

That’s where the City of St. John’s Inclusion Support Program came in.

More support, more participation, more fun!

The Inclusion Support Program is helping to fill a gap in recreation opportunities in St. John’s, allowing all kids to participate with access to greater support.

Councillor Hope Jamieson, lead on the City of St. John’s Inclusion Advisory Committee, notes the importance of the program, saying, “we had more demand than ever before, with 15 kids participating in the program this summer.”

The Inclusion Support Program is unique because participants and their families can select any community program or activity they’d like to enrol in. This openness is rare for families like Layla’s to experience. Once enrolled, Inclusion Support Services can provide a support worker to allow children with special needs to participate with ease.

All support workers have a background in working with people with disabilities and are trained specifically to work with the child they are paired with based on their individual needs. From hiking and camping, to swimming lessons and soccer, the support worker is there every step of the way to help ensure each child succeeds – and participates.

Because of her love for the water, Layla knew exactly what program she wanted to sign-up for… swimming lessons!

The 1-to-1 support was key to Layla’s success and allowed her family to relax during this new adventure, knowing she was in trusted hands. Plus, since the swim instructor knew Layla’s strengths and what she was capable of, the entire program was tailored  to meet her needs.

Not only did Layla learn how to jump in the water on her own, she now has an increased awareness of water safety, learned the fundamentals of swimming, and even greatly improved her listening skills.

Summertime fun building lifelong skills. 

Layla loved her experience and swimming lessons so much, she is registered to begin again in the fall!

“It is so great that this program is offered,” says Layla’s Mom, Kayla. “Otherwise, families might not be able to afford support so their kids could participate in community extracurriculars.” Not to mention the critical importance of water safety and the associated peace of mind for parents.

Councillor Jamieson says that thanks to funding from the GoodLife Kids Foundation, families get access to a support staff member free of charge. This means that more children like Layla are able to participate in community programs, learn important skills, and make memories to last a lifetime.

GoodLife Kids Foundation raises funds to remove barriers and provide physical activity opportunities for kids with special needs all across Canada, just like Layla.  To date, GoodLife Kids Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 250,000 Canadian kids!