Mackenzie has always been curious about the world around him. He loves playing with tools, doing experiments and learning how things work. He’s also always been fascinated by water. Growing up in the Maritimes, water is a big part of the local lifestyle, so it’s only natural that Mackenzie should learn to swim.
But when his grandma first enrolled him in public swimming lessons, sessions only led to frustration. They would often have to bribe him into the pool, and he was quickly overwhelmed and distracted by others playing and splashing around him.
At 8 years old, Mackenzie has only recently been diagnosed with autism. He struggles with communication. As a result, he’s quite shy and finds socializing challenging. Noise and flurries of activity also lead to overstimulation and anxiety. As Nana Janet explained, “Mack’s idea of being social is different from other kids. He likes to have friends over, but then wants to play in separate rooms.”
When they heard about the adapted swimming lessons being offered through Autism Nova Scotia in Annapolis Valley, they rushed to register. One on one instruction with a caring instructor educated about autism in a quiet, otherwise empty pool seemed like the perfect environment for Mackenzie to learn. Even better, the program was local and they didn’t need to drive into the city.
“Mack’s response to these lessons has been out of this world,” Janet told us enthusiastically. “There’s no hesitation to get in the water – he loves it!”
Since his swimming lessons, Mackenzie has gained so much confidence in himself and around the water. He’s putting his head underwater, going down the slide at the pool, and venturing into the deep end. These skills are leading to new adventures too.
One of Mackenzie’s favourite summer activities is heading to the lake with Nana. They bring inflatable tubes and float for hours. “We always used to tie our tubes together so he wouldn’t get too far away and get anxious – but last time he asked to be set loose to explore.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” says Janet. “But most importantly, he’s proud of himself.”