Lisa van den Hoven is the mother to three wonderful children. Like many parents, she seeks out activities to help them grow and develop. For two of her children, this is an easy task. For her son, Nik, finding the right place has been harder. That’s because Nik has both autism and ADHD.
“We put him in skating lessons with the city, but when we shared some of his differences with the instructors, they quickly lowered their expectations of what he could do,” said Lisa. “And the more specialized programs we have tried seem to be designed for kids with more profound differences. It was discouraging because he was not fitting in well anywhere.”
Lisa and her husband decided to turn to the Y, a place where they had previously been drop-in users. She approached the aquatic team about Nik’s needs, stressing the importance of him being in class with other “typical” children.
“The inclusion piece is really important because it allows Nik to learn alongside positive peer role models,” said Lisa. “The aquatic team listened to our request and I really appreciated that.”
Together Lisa has worked with the Elmwood-Kildonan aquatic team to set specific goals which match up with our national swim curriculum, but also target Nik’s specific needs. For instance, a functional goal for him was to be able to practise the strong front crawl skills he would need to be able to pass a swim test to access deep water. The aquatic team was flexible enough to prioritize that skill even though it differed from the swim-level curriculum. This flexibility, and Nik’s determination, led to success inside and outside of our facility. While swimming with friends this past summer, Nik independently approached a pool lifeguard, swam his required laps and earned his wristband, which he proudly displayed to his mom.
“Without his time at the Y, Nik would not have understood the expectations at a typical pool and would not have had the skills to earn his way into the deep end,” said Lisa. “Honestly, that moment of him showing me his wristband is more meaningful to me than anything.”
Nik continues to work with swim instructors to tackle new hurdles each week.
“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I’ve been for the experience we’ve had at the Y’s swim program,” said Lisa. “Our experience with your staff, and particularly your aquatic director, Wendy, has been so wonderful! We feel welcome, which can be rare for families with kids like ours. I feel safe to give feedback and ask for adjustments, and that is a big deal.”