April is Autism Awareness Month, so the timing is perfect to introduce you to Stephanie and A.J. I was so pleased to get a note from Stephanie, a local Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio mom who won the free swim lessons to Goldfish Swim School Hudson a couple months ago. She shared with me how overjoyed they were with their experience at Goldfish Swim School in Hudson, Ohio especially because her son, A.J. has autism. I asked her to share their story so that it may benefit others.
AJ was red-flagged for developmental delays/autism at the young age of 14 months. His pediatrician noticed his lack of eye contact, he wasn’t babbling and his play skills were not “typical”. My husband is a United States Marines and was currently deployed while AJ was assessed. AJ was quickly diagnosed as severe on the autism spectrum. He dove into daily therapies starting with speech, occupational therapy, ABA (applied behavior analysis), music therapy, early intervention preschools, feeding therapy and horse back riding. He had anywhere from 1-8 hours of daily therapies from the age of 14 months until this past fall.
Currently AJ is fully integrated in a typical kindergarten classroom and is diagnosed as high functioning. He is a very happy young boy who loves to learn and strives to make others happy. He loves to be active and make friends. Although we remain positive and always push forward, autism does still affect our daily lives. We have after school appointments about everyday. My husband, daughter and I all have sacrificed things in our own lives so we can help support AJ to continue to make progress and set him up to be as independent and happy in his own personal life as possible.
Early intervention has done leaps and bounds for AJ and we still continue to do outside therapies on top of extra curricular activities. Autism has never defined AJ, nor has he let it. He has always pushed forward, as the sky is his limit. I’m so proud of our AJ. I have learned so much from him in the 6.5 years that I’ve been blessed to be his mom.
Swimming and Autism & Goldfish Swim School: A Local Mom’s Story
Children with autism are 160 times more likely to drown according to researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public. Experts agree that all children, especially children on the spectrum should learn to swim. Local Streetsboro, Ohio licensed speech and language pathologist, Jocelyn Geib, PhD -CCC/SLP stresses, “Water and swimming safety are lifelong and critical skills for children on the autism spectrum. Safe and supportive lessons can help reduce the risk of accidental drowning—and bring about more joy, confidence, and motor coordination. Swimming can offer improved coordination and strength and can even be therapeutic once a child is comfortable in the water. Swimming requires the use of energy which can in turn reduce tension and anxiety and promote body awareness. There can be many secondary gains as well including improved attention and increased ability to follow directions.”
Autism & Goldfish Swim School: A Local Mom’s Story
I asked Stephanie to share with us her son’s experience at Goldfish Swim School as it relates to children with autism.
AJ has always been fearless in the water and I have never felt comfortable enough to let him not wear a floaty in the pool while swimming. A lot of kids with ASD do not perceive the immediate danger of water and are often drawn to it. Unfortunately on the news, there are often stories of ASD children who have gone missing and drowned. As a family, we are so thankful for Goldfish and AkronOhioMoms.com for blessing us with this gift of swim lessons that will last a lifetime. Thank you so much!!!
How has swimming helped your child compared to other sports?
—— Swimming has helped AJ tremendously with an overall calming and centering effect. His scripting has decreased during the session and after. Swimming is more of an individual sport and Goldfish has done an amazing job adapting and supporting him.
Has swimming helped your child cope with stresses outside of the water too?
——Bathing was always really difficult for AJ. Swimming has made him more comfortable and confident in the water and he now bathes himself independently without a fight. He looks forward to his weekly swim lesson that is always met with a smile.
Some parents report other side effects from learning how to swim, including improved speech and cognitive function. Have you noticed this?
——AJ has an expressive speech delay and after swim lessons he is more centered with better focus.
Sometimes swimming can help improve speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing. Any input on this?
—— I definitely feel AJ is very proud of himself and his success and improvements have increased his self-esteem greatly. He is highly motivated by the peers in his class as well! They do a great job at encouraging the young swimmers to do their best and I’m proud to say AJ is close to being moved to the next level of swim lessons. His coordination has became so much better but is still a work in progress.
How has the class size and structure helped your child?
———The maximum class size of 4 is great for AJ! The waiting time is less than a larger class which is crucial for him. They have visuals available which help AJ, as he was an early reader and he can see what is coming next.
Goldfish Swim School explains, “We also utilize tools such as visual aids, a special abilities progress report and a “social story” that helps kids prepare for what their lesson experience is going to be like.”
Can you compare and contrast other swim lessons or sports experiences to Goldfish? How do they differ?
——— Goldfish has been so accommodating. He has worked primarily with Oliver and has improved so much since he started. We have done one other local swim “lesson” when AJ was younger but it was more fun and song singing. Goldfish actually teaches your kid to swim and about water safety which is so important especially with a kid who has ASD. I love the atmosphere, energy, parent involvement and all of the staff. They have been so lovely.
What do you like about Goldfish Swim Lessons?
——I love that they have seen AJ’s ability beyond his disability. As a parent of a special needs kid, you always want your kiddo to be treated the same as other kids but also keep in mind their brain just works differently. He wants to swim, he wants to make friends and be accepted. He wants to earn that ribbon at the end of class. He is listening even though he may not be making eye contact. I have only received positive remarks from Goldfish Swim School employees and that’s so important. A positive outlook and acceptance is the first step. We have been so grateful for this opportunity to involve AJ in swim lessons.
Swim lessons for children with autism at Goldfish Swim School in Hudson, OH
Goldfish Swim School offers both group and private lessons, depending on a child’s unique needs for children ages 4 months to 12 years old. The small class sizes (max 4:1 student-teacher ratio) has been good for A.J. however you may elect to go with private lessons. Goldfish Swim School in Hudson, OH offers private lessons only for those with special needs. To keep their lessons accessible for all, these classes will be limited only to those who cannot attend our group lessons.
Lessons will be taught by Goldfish Swim School’s own Miss Ashley, a long time lifeguard who is currently attending Twinsburg High School. Ashley is part of the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center where is she in their early placement nursing program. She is very excited to begin instructing your little swimmer!
Private lessons are $184 per month and being currently being offered Tuesday-Thursday from 11:00-11:30 and 11:30-12:00.
Call Goldfish Swim School today to register your child for swim lesson (234) 380-4400.
Goldfish Swim School
725 West Streetsboro St.
Hudson, Ohio 44236