We recently received this letter from one of our Dolphins’ parents. We are sharing it with you today in gratitude as it demonstrates our mission to provide autism swimming lessons and we are thankful to all of our supporters.
“I would like to draw your attention to my daughter’s swim school, One with the Water®, a foundation that has dramatically changed my daughter’s life for the better. One with the Water is an organization that has been such a blessing for us providing swimming lessons for children with autism. My daughter, Katherine, has autism. She loves water, and for years desperately wanted to play and swim. However, due to her autism, she had many, many fears about common elements found in pools (different colored tiles, drains, lights, heaters, unlit water) and in natural bodies of water (weeds, seaweed, algae, tiny crabs, moving sand) that prevented her from enjoying something she so badly wanted to do. I can’t tell you how many trips to the pool or beach, where we tried to explain the elements and reassure her of her safety and coax her into the water, ended by going home completely dry because she was too fearful to try. It was frustrating and heart-breaking to see her try so hard for so long (these fears began in 2009 and there was no traumatic experience from a neuro-typical point of view to explain them). And, try she did, asking to go to the pool/ocean repeatedly, bravely confronting those fears. By the end of 2013, she was able to get into the pool a couple of feet—as long as someone was covering the water outlets. This may not sound like much to you, but for us with an autistic child that was a major, hard-won victory.
Early in 2014, I had the great fortune to meet Kenneth Rippetoe, Founder of One with the Water. In short order, Kat began autism swimming lessons with patient and experienced swim coaches that knew what to say and how to soften her fears so well that she was fully in the water by the second lesson. Skip to November 1st, when she competed in her first swim meet—placing 1st in the 200-yard freestyle! This was a standard, main-stream, swim meet; not a special-needs meet. We were all so proud of Kat! More importantly, Kat was proud of herself.
As a result of her hard work and dedication, she has a shot at swimming on the local high school swim team. To be able to participate on her high school swim team next year would be a gift of an entirely different nature, one that I expect (hope, pray) to ease the pain of peer rejection she has been working to overcome. Being on the swim team would give Kat, as a middle school girl whose social skills are impacted by autism, a sense of belonging, a group, a place to be, and perhaps even real friends that she can do things with outside of school. Kat is high functioning enough to understand she isn’t “getting it” but not able to read or analyse interactions rapidly enough to be accepted as a friend. This is painful—if you remember middle school, you understand; autism means she doesn’t often show emotion but she feels things deeply.
One with the Water is approved as an Independent Physical Education provider. Coach Kenneth is a Level 3 Disability Swim Coach, Lifeguard, and trains swimmers for sanctioned US Paralympic competitions. When I mentioned to Coach Kenneth that Kat was deliberately making us late every day to avoid the locker room scene (gym was 1st hour), they accepted Kat into that program, too. The chaos of the locker room threw her off for the rest of the day; since gym was her first class, this was a huge problem. Her grades started improving immediately after the change and she has been ready on time every morning since. As you can see, I have much for which to thank Kenneth and the coaches at One with the Water. Getting over the fears that kept her glued to one spot to where she is now, alleviating a source of school stress that was detrimental to her education and self-esteem, showing her she can be a winner and opening the door to forming social relationships in High School; all of these improvements in Katherine’s life and future are entirely due to the efforts of the One with the Water program and coaches.
Words fail to express the gratitude I feel for these people. Ours isn’t the only story. I sit by the pool a lot while Kat has her autism swim lessons and see how they work with children—the good they do is obvious. One with the Water’s dedication to helping children with special needs and children whose families have a limited income is, well, a beautiful thing to witness. Please keep this letter in mind when you are deciding what charitable organizations to help. If any organization deserves a grant, it is this one indeed.”
Lisa D. (November 2015)