Swim Team Social Success
In June 2007, our family moved to Vero Beach, FL., from Wellington, FL. It was a necessary decision that, unfortunately, took us away from my son, Evan’s, therapists. The biggest break was from his weekly social skills group. I depended greatly on this one to keep his social learning and his ability to interact with his peers current.
When we arrived in Vero Beach, I immediately began looking for activities for all three of my boys, but, with special attention to social activities for Evan. What I found was the Treasure Coast Swimming Conquistadors, led by coaches Scott Barlow and Holly McClain. These two wonderful coaches have been a miracle for my son.
Evan always loved the water. My mom taught him to swim at an early age and he took to it “like a fish”. When he first started with the team, I explained to Coaches Scott and Holly all about Evan’s high functioning autism; how it manifested in his behavior, and the challenges they might face with him for a while. They took it in stride and proceeded to treat him like any of the other swimmers.
At first, Evan had some difficulty with his endurance…there are a lot of laps of the pool required during swim practice. But, the repetitive nature of the drills fit in perfectly with his perseverative personality traits. His stroke skills were poor and it took him a while to catch on to the whole “turn your head to the side to breathe” thing. But, less than a year later, he was competing in regional swim meets and had even won several ribbons.
Swimming is a solitary exercise when done on your own. As part of a swim team, however, kids are swimming in lanes with other kids for an hour or two, taking breaks together while the coaches are working with other groups, and joking around in the pool. The team environment created such an amazing social opportunity for Evan. The kids are typically grouped by age and skill, so when they finish a particular drill, they have a few minutes to talk to their teammates. It is forced socialization with a group of kids in which he automatically has something in common. Evan jumped right into the social scene because, I believe, he was in an environment and activity that he loved right from the beginning. He argues about doing homework and doing chores, but, is always eager to go to swim practice.
I give a huge amount of credit to our coaches, Scott and Holly. It takes an enormous amount of patience to coach 40+ kids, all swimming simultaneously. They have the ability to pick out the strengths of each child and help them exploit those strengths to make them better swimmers and better athletes. Coach Scott even has an Olympic Gold Medalist to his credit! In our case, they also tolerate Evan’s never ending stream of commentary during practice. If he’s not swimming he’s asking: “how many laps are left?” and “what are we doing next?”, and “am I doing o.k.?”…a continuous stream of verbosity. It’s his nature, it can be very cute, but, it’s not always what a coach needs during a large practice.
Scott and Holly have absorbed Evan into their swimming family, like any other child, and have turned him into a boy who can swim a mile without the slightest struggle. They encourage him, joke with him, cheer him during practice and swim meets, continuously help him improve his skills and boost his self esteem whenever possible. They have even handled his occasional “meltdowns” with grace and care. We are so grateful to them for the work they do and the commitment they have shown to all three of our boys.
To learn more, please visit theTreasure Coast Swimming Conquistadors or call 772-713-6591. See you at the pool!
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