As any parent will tell you, every child is different – developing distinctive personalities and abilities and experiencing unique accomplishments and challenges. At the Y, we’re dedicated to helping all kids reach their full potential and to partnering with families to provide opportunities that help them achieve their goals and lead healthy lives. For the Magee family, their son Liam’s experience with Autism and their desire to keep him safe around water has prompted a deep connection with the Y.
Danielle Magee first came to YMCA at New Holland (then the New Holland Rec Center), about six years ago, enrolling in a swim program for herself and her then nine-month-old son, Liam, as a way for this stay-at home mom to connect with other families and to help her young son have his first safe experiences in the water. Several years later at age 3, Liam was diagnosed with Autism. After reading about the elevated risk for accidental drowning for children with Autism, Danielle and her husband Erin deepened their commitment to continuing their son’s swim lessons at the Y.
Over the past three years Liam, now age 7, has taken one-on-one swim lessons at the New Holland branch with Tara Becker. Liam has limited verbal communication abilities and learning new skills takes time. Repetition is important, and while Liam has always enjoyed his time in the pool, Tara developed a routine for their lessons that would put him at ease and allow him to focus on learning. “No one has ever told us what Liam will or will not be able to do, but we’ve learned the value of realistic expectations,” explains Danielle, who sets goals that focus on Liam’s safety and happiness and reaching his full potential, whatever form that may take.
A spirit of collaboration is obvious when you meet Danielle, Liam and Tara. During his lessons, Danielle shares Liam’s accomplishments, such as saying a new word, and Tara reinforces that learning while they’re in the pool. Danielle has also recommended Y swim lessons to a fellow mom with an Autistic child and regularly shares experiences and opportunities within a local Autism advocacy organization, The Tommy Foundation. Recently, Liam accomplished a major milestone, as he let go of Tara and swam to the side of the pool independently, smiling all the way there.