One of my major fears is my sons love for water. He does not see the hidden dangers that lies beneath the surface. I read an article on the National Autism Association website, that "In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children on the autism spectrum ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement." The statistic alone scares me and knowing how my son loves water. Instead of being afraid of letting him enjoy water play I decided to put my fears aside put Ralph and Mackenzie in swimming class. I decided to make sure that both Ralph and Mackenzie learn how to swim.
There are some programs to help families with special needs children to afford services and extracurricular activities which may put a financial strain on their finances. One organization I discovered through a friend was the Maryland Community Connection. They participate as as one of the LISS Agencies. In the state of Maryland we have a program called the Low Intensity Support Services (LISS). The Low Intensity Support Program (LISS) is flexible to meet the needs of the individual or family. The program is designed to improve an individual or family’s quality of life, increase or maintain independence, and participate in their communities.The LISS program uses an automated system called the Random Selection Process to select individuals who may be eligible for funding, granting up to $2000 for services and items to address their needs.
We decided to take swim lessons at Kids First Swim School in Bowie, MD. The swim school was recommended by a friend who has used their services. Kids First Swim School is an active participate as one of the businesses frequently used in the LISS program. When I reached out to them to in inquire if they were willing to provide private swim lessons for Ralph they were very supportive and reassuring they will help. We met with the manager at the school and discussed our expectations and pairing Ralph with the best instructor. We were given Mr. Brian, is the most patient and kind person I have ever met. He understands Ralph's challenges and is very patient with him.
Ralph had two sessions with Brian and loved it. We are definitely signing both kids up for the next upcoming session. As peace of mind is priceless when it comes to the ones you love most. The kids are learning how to swim and I am learning to embrace my fears, by empowering my kids with independence.
As summer approaches here are a few safety tips I found and these safety tips are not just for kids with autism can be applied to all children.
1. Learn to swim. Enroll your child in swimming and water safety lessons as early as possible.
2. Visual learning. Use video narratives to discuss water safety, as well as outline specific rules and consequences related to poor safety practices.
3. Key information. Make sure your child knows his or her name, address, and phone number in the event he or she is separated from family. If your child does not speak, he or she should wear a bracelet or necklace with identifiable information.
4. Avoid sensory-overload. Summer is the time for vacations, exploring new places, and sensory-overloading experiences. Try to prepare your child for what they can expect as they enter a new environment -- whether it is a beach, pool, or even a restaurant.
5. Alert others. Communicate with your neighbors, whether at home or on vacation, and ask them to contact you immediately if they see your child wandering alone outside your home or property.
Remember swimming and aquatic therapy is really a wonderful sport for children with autism, it may address many of their body's sensory and motor needs. Be sure to prepare and communicate with your child with autism, family members, and friends, so that summer trips and activities can be much less stressful and more enjoyable.
For more information about classes at Kid First Swim School located in Bowie, MD please use their contact information below:
Kid First Swim School Bowie, MD
Hilltop Shopping Center
6836B Race Track Road
Bowie, MD 20715
LISS Program Info: http://dda.dhmh.maryland.gov/pages/liss.aspx