Goldfish Swim School offers both group and private lessons, depending on a child’s unique needs. “We know that goals might be different for families of children with autism. Our team meets with parents to review the swimmer information sheet and make a customized plan that includes finding an instructor that is a good fit and the right lessons setting. 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,” says Morris.
Cleveland mom Kacie Buzzard is the mother of two daughters. Her seven-year-old daughter Caroline has severe non-verbal autism. Both of her children have been taking swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School for over three years.
“At first, I was concerned about whether or not instructors would be able to work with Caroline because of her diagnoses. Goldfish has been amazing in terms of working with us as a special needs family. The management team at Goldfish had us come in for an assessment and they asked us about her needs. We discussed the type of instructor that would be a good fit for her and we decided that a private class would be best. They found an instructor who had experience working with special needs kids and that was really helpful, ” says Buzzard.
As lessons progressed, the experience exceeded Buzzard’s expectations. “The main goal was to focus on ensuring that Caroline could get to the side of the pool and get out safely. It gave us tremendous piece of mind to know that she had that basic ability to get herself out of a pool. The instructor also considered what was going to help Caroline process information better. Caroline hears and her receptive language is fine but the instructor used sign language helps reinforce the message. The instruction also laminated some visuals to help with communication,” adds Buzzard.
Buzzard stresses that the staff at Goldfish never discounted her daughter because of her autism. “One day, I looked over and saw that Caroline was wearing goggles. She has sensory issues and this is something that she has never done before and the instructor got her to do it. To an autism parent, that is a huge accomplishment because she took direction and allowed something that is uncomfortable.”
Caroline continues to progress through her lessons. “Right now, she is working on perfecting her back stroke. She can tread water for over two minutes.” says Buzzard. Caroline attends a school or children with autism and several of her classmates also take swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School. Many of her friends are more high functioning and they partake in the regular group lessons. “The program is able to meet the needs of kids with various needs. Some kids were able to function right next to their peers and teachers did a great job of interacting,” says Buzzard.
Gieb encourages parents to seek out swim lessons for their children with autism. “Find a facility that will work with you to understand a child’s unique needs. Patience, understanding, and flexibility are important when teaching someone with special needs to swim, and when done correctly, the benefits can be tremendous.”
Michael Morris is a father of two and the owner of Goldfish Swim School. Goldfish Swim School has three Cleveland-area locations: Goldfish Swim School Cleveland East Side, Goldfish Swim School Fairview Park, and Goldfish Swim School Hudson. Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years in a unique setting with highly trained instructors, small class sizes (max 4:1 student-teacher ratio), shiver-free 90-degree pools, and a state-of-the-art water purification system. Visit the website for more information: goldfishswimschool.com.