YMCA, SOS Healthcare partner to give swim lessons to children with autism

Grand Strand

Between 2009 and 2011, the National Autism Association says 91% of deaths of children with autism were due to accidental drownings. SOS Healthcare and the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach partner to help combat the statistic.

The 45-minute lessons are every Saturday morning at the Family Y, and Heather Stahley, who’s son, Logan, is in the program, says it was just what she needed to help him out.

“It’s very scary as a parent,” she said. “I wasn’t having any luck teaching him on my own to swim, so when this came available, I jumped on it right away.”

Logan has autism but he isn’t letting it stop him from learning how to swim. He’s on his fourth session of the program at the Y that SOS Healthcare partnered to create.

“It’s done a lot of good for both of us. You know, I’ve met parents who understand what it’s like and what you’re going through,” said Stahley. “We’ve formed bonds and friendships and we cheer each other’s kiddos on.”

Diane Owens with SOS Healthcare says kids with autism are attracted to water, and with how aquatic the local environment is, she says the program is necessary. 

“There was an incident a few years back where unfortunately a young boy lost his life because he had wandered and he didn’t have the swimming skills, and after that, we were like this is way too important to not take advantage of this,” said Owens.

The 12 students learn the basics, but the lessons are also individualized, to cater to what each student needs. 

Therapists are there too, to help out with behavior techniques.

“Kids learning how to take turns, and they’re not wanting to, we have the therapist in the water to help with that to help teach the kids patience and how to wait their turn,” said Michelle Krenzer, the YMCA’s aquatics director.

The lessons are catered towards pool safety now, but as summer rolls around, Krenzer says they’ll add things like ocean safety and lifejacket safety. 

To sign your child up for the swim lessons, you can contact Diane Owens with SOS Healthcare at (843) 449-0554.

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