SwimAbility program teaches special needs kids in Sudbury how to swim
Program is run by other universities in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto
A new program in Sudbury called SwimAbility is helping kids with special needs learn to swim.
Run by Laurentian University students, the volunteer-driven initiative aims to provide affordable private lessons that include water safety and swimming moves.
Rebecca Mailloux helped bring the program to Sudbury with her friends Amanda Fluke and Natalie Taylor.
Mailloux said it's important to teach children how to swim as Sudbury is surrounded by many lakes.
"I know that children with special needs, the second leading cause of death is drowning," she said. "We just want to make sure that these children are aware of the safety and hazards with water."
Currently, there are other SwimAbility groups run by universities across the country in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Fluke, a certified swim instructor, noticed the program wasn't available in Sudbury and thought it was necessary to bring the program to the city as swimming is a life skill.
"Usually, private swimming lessons like one-on-one can be pretty pricey. Sometimes they can be $20 an hour, $40 an hour." she said. "The whole mission of SwimAbility is that it's barrier-free and accessible."
Currently, swim lessons are available for kids aged 3-18 and cost from $15-25 for six to 10 sessions. The lessons take place every Sunday at Laurentian's swimming pool. Fluke said the costs go towards pool rentals and lifeguards.
Lessons are 'hands-on'
Kids like four-year-old Jacob McGrayne is already benefiting from the program, as he used to get anxious around water.
The Sudbury boy has childhood apraxia of speech, a disorder that affects his motor skills.
Since starting lessons, his mother Lorrie McGrayne says her son has learned basic skills like blowing bubbles.
"What I'm finding is the instructor that he's with is very hands-on with him and he seems to be getting more comfortable with being around the pool and actually getting into the pool himself." she said.
"Whenever he finishes his swimming lesson, he always says to the instructor, 'see you tomorrow!' because he wants to come back tomorrow and go in with her."
Meanwhile, Mailloux is also enjoying her time as a swim instructor and says the experience is rewarding.
"We all just want to do this because we feel the need to have children with disabilities learn how to swim — and we all love working with children."