Teaching Children with Disabilities to Swim

The Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center in Palo Alto is leading the way in making swimming accessible to all children.

The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are daunting—one in every 88 American children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, one in 303 has cerebral palsy, and one in every 691 babies born has Down syndrome.

Special training is needed to teach these children to swim, and that’s where the Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center in Palo Alto comes in.

Last month, the center gathered aquatics professionals and children with disabilities for a four-day training session that left the kids happy and comfortable in the water, while providing the professionals with valuable skills to take back to their own centers across the area.

Trainees learned how to apply the most appropriate education methods for teaching water safety and swim skills to children with disabilities and how to modulate their approach and techniques to respond to each child’s individual needs,” Wendy Kuehnl, Director of Marketing for Abilities United said in a written statement.

Following the four day training session, one father commented, “Our son learned more in four days here than over the past five years of swim lessons. I witnessed the instructors using specific techniques that he responded to immediately. The Betty Wright Swim Center has restored my hope and dream that our kids have a place where they can become self-sufficient in swimming!”

In addition to the safety aspect of making sure that all children can swim, swimming provides exercise for children and a chance to increase socialization.

“As a society we have a collective responsibility to grant individuals of all abilities opportunities for learning and developing to their fullest potential,” said Rho Henry Olaisen, Abilities United Aquatics Director. “Water exercise can be ideal for children with several forms and degrees of disability to have fun, feel good, and acquire confidence along with life-saving skills.”

The Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center has a goal of becoming a national aquatic health and wellness leader by 2014.  


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