NoVario is 6 years old and has Down’s Syndrome. He has been swimming at Gwinnett Swim for one year and currently takes lessons twice a week for 30 minutes.
He began in our ASI (Aquatic Survival Instruction) program swimming 3 times a week for 15 minutes with an instructor, one-on-one. During these lessons he worked on many different water safety skills like standing safely on the step and putting his face in the water with his eyes open. He learned to float on his back and roll to his stomach to grab his instructor’s hand.
After completing the 12 week program he moved to our Adaptive Aquatics maintenance classes. The focus was to reinforce his ASI skills and to gain new ones. While NoVario did gain confidence in many of the basics, other skills from his previous class were more challenging for him. He continues to work on blowing bubbles to keep water out of his month and to kick while swimming. The most challenging skill for him to master has been rolling to his back from swimming so he can float and breathe.
NoVario always comes into the pool smiling and excited to swim. You can hear him repeating his instructor’s words of encouragement, “kick, kick, kick” while he practices on the step or hear him say, “ready, set, go” before she does. He enjoys helping her kick her legs the way she helps him. His instructor, Coach Vicky says, “NoVario practices many skills that are no different from any other lesson I teach. He blows bubbles, grabs my hand, rolls to rest, and floats. We have used a life jacket to teach him to roll to his back, Mom shows him swimming videos at home to teach him continuous kicking and we have used glow sticks underwater to teach him to reach and pull his arms.”
When asked what her favorite part of teaching special needs swimmers, Vicky says, “Everyone deserves to learn how to swim. It’s rewarding seeing how excited the parents get when their child learns a new skill.” You can see mom’s face light up and Vicky smile when NoVario has a good lesson and accomplishes a skill the three of them have been working towards. “He has made great progress in lessons this summer and fall, he is floating independently for 20 seconds, he can turn from his back to swim by himself, he can swim to the wall or step and he can swim off the step to a hand target,” says Vicky.
While he is in a one-on-one class, the pool is filled with other children and adults taking lessons. He shares a step with other young swimmers and enjoys their company and watching them practice the same skills.
In the pool the kids learning to swim share all the same goals. They are having fun while learning to be safe in the water and improving their skills, including being a good listener, moving their bodies correctly in the water. They also work on how to multitask by kicking and blowing bubbles while looking at the bottom of the pool. Many of these tasks are challenging for a child with special needs, but putting them into a new setting like the pool can make them less challenging and also fun.
Swimming uses and can strengthen all the major muscle groups in the body and improve gross motor skills and balance. The resistance water provides makes it a low impact exercise that can benefit many children in a way that other physical activities cannot. Swimming is a sport that is not only a life skill but is inclusive to those of all abilities.
Deneshia, NoVario’s mom has this to say about their time with us.
“I would love the opportunity to share my experience with the best aquatic center in GA!
We have been a member of Gwinnett Swim for almost if not a year. I’ve witnessed my son develop into a very confident swimmer. In the beginning he was very frightened, lacked confidence and skills. The team at Gwinnett swim have worked so hard amongst themselves and alongside my son to develop him into the swimmer he is today. He has been acknowledged as star fish of the month twice!! There are many other aquatic centers near us. However, I choose to drive 30 minutes to Gwinnett swim because they rock!
We love you all”