Chi loves to swim and he is quite good at it. Chi is eight years old and has autism spectrum disorder as do his two siblings. Children with autism spectrum disorder often attempt to wander or bolt from a safe, supervised place. Because of this, Chi’s mother Susan knew how critical it was for her children to learn to swim since their home is near water.
Chi and his siblings took personal swim lessons at Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center. With Chi’s higher functioning level, Susan felt he could participate in group swim lessons and thought the social interactions with other children would be beneficial to him. Susan knew of the YMCA’s history of offering swimming lessons as her father had learned to swim at a Y, so she enrolled Chi in the Y’s youth group lessons.
Initially Chi became upset and distracted in the group setting, and while he became more at ease, he still had difficulty with the instructions. Nick Hildebrand who is a Y swim instructor and was often the lifeguard on duty at the Y during the group lessons would offer the instructors suggestions on how to help Chi.
After one of the group lessons, Nick offered to provide private lessons to Chi and it made all the difference for him. “Chi’s swimming abilities have improved greatly and the private lessons with Nick usually took place when the other group swim lessons were going on, so it still gave him more interactions with others and the opportunity to improve his social skills,” said Susan. In the four years Chi has been taking lessons at the Y, he can swim one length of the pool in 36 seconds (his fastest time) and he’s doing so well that Susan is considering signing him up for Special Olympics.
Susan said that Nick has really helped Chi and he enjoys spending that time with Nick in the pool, and in return, Chi has had a big impact on Nick as he says that “teaching Chi to swim is a high point of my day.”