On the evening of Monday, May 20th, graduates of the Autism Society of Greater Akron’s (ASGA) Swimming With Autism program and their families attended an open swim session and graduation ceremony at the Kohl Family YMCA to celebrate their completion of the class. Swimming With Autism, a water safety program designed specifically by ASGA for individuals with autism, is one of several inclusive programs provided by the Autism Society of Greater Akron.
“Because drowning is one of the leading causes of death for people with autism, ASGA partnered with the Akron Area YMCA in the fall of 2017 to provide water safety lessons for our at-risk population,” said Laurie Cramer, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron. “Fast forward to today, and we’re proud that 87 swimmers have received over 1,740 lessons.”
Cramer continued, “We want to thank the GPD Employees’ Foundation, Northeast Ohio Autism Group, and our donors, who help us keep the cost of Swimming With Autism affordable. Its impact is best explained by Eitan’s parents, who attended our most recent session.”
“About a year ago, I experienced one of a parent's worst fears. While at a family celebration, I saw my eight-year-old, autistic son drowning, struggling to keep his head above water and unable to touch the bottom. He had taken off his life vest and drifted too far into the deep end of an unguarded pool. Since then, my family has struggled to find a program that can teach both water safety and swimming skills to a kid who learns and processes information differently,” said Dr. Mike Levinstein, father of Eitan (8), a first time Swimming With Autism student.
“Many extra-curricular programs and therapies are a struggle to drag him to, however, my son never once complained, whined, or resisted when attending Swimming With Autism. The staff knew just how to adapt the curriculum for each kid's needs and it shows by how far my son has come in just two months. We can't wait to participate again next season!”
Pictured: Eitan Levinstein (8) of Akron with Instructor Nicole Durbin (right)
The following students – ranging in age from four to 14 – made up this year’s graduating class (first name and city of residence):
“It feels great to talk to parents on graduation night who finally feel relieved and safe when bringing their kids around water thanks to this program,” said Lisa Thompson, Director of Programs at ASGA. “It’s incredible to watch the progress our instructors can get out of the swimmers in just ten weeks. Many of them aren’t only safer, but can now participate in swimming activities with their families.”
The next session of the Swimming with Autism program will begin in September 2019, and registration will open later this summer. More information about this program, and other Autism Society of Greater Akron programs, can be found at www.autismakron.org/swim.