Mother of Child with Autism Asked to Leave Swimming Lessons Facility
As the founder and executive director of One with the Water, I want to share with your readers, citizens of Los Angeles and surrounding communities, an excerpt of a letter I received from a parent after her son’s swimming lessons this past weekend. One with the Water is a non-profit swim school providing swimming lessons to children and adults. Our mission is to teach swimming in order to empower and enrich the lives of everyone, including children and adults with special needs, terminal illnesses, and those who come from low-income families.
This is not the first time we have been asked by pool staff about our policy on crying children. Sadly, it is also not the first time that a mother of a child with autism has been asked to leave the swimming lessons facility; in fact, it’s happened at EVERY facility from which we rent pool space. I ask that all readers welcome One with the Water to their neighborhood pools and allow our clients the opportunity to be healthy and happy. Swimming saves lives! For only $60 everyone can sponsor a child and give him or her chance to learn how to swim. It is our hope that this letter will go viral and reminds everyone of the obstacles those with special needs or cognitive imperfections face on a daily basis. We also hope that the pool staff and fellow swimmers embrace our mission and help us achieve our goals, which will in turn make our communities stronger.
And now the letter:
“Dear Coach Kenneth,
I am writing this email to discuss some concerns that we have about our son’s swim lessons. First of all, our main purpose of enrolling him into swimming lessons was to allow him to have fun at something he really enjoyed (swimming in the pool) and to learn how to swim. Our son has autism and he doesn’t necessarily like to do things he doesn’t enjoy and are foreign to him. But even when we are in home-based behavior therapy with him, we continue to work through things he doesn’t like even if he’s throwing a tantrum, crying, screaming, etc. I guess that’s a little easier when we are in our home versus a public place like the pool. As a result, we felt bad but also offended on Saturday when the pool personnel lifeguard told us that there were complaints about our son’s crying.
I know it wasn’t anything at all on your part and I appreciate that you even defended us, but it makes us a little angry that others can’t be more understanding of the situation and would in fact drive us out of the pool because of their complaints. To us, that doesn’t demonstrate that your company works in an environment that supports the teaching of kids with needs, even if you and your staff work well with special needs children… We just know we can’t continue to have him swim when the water is too cold for him and he’s crying the whole time or we continue to get complaints from others.
Autism can be exhausting mentally and emotionally due to the complexity of the condition, so it is important that parents find ways to connect with their child in a meaningful way. Love and patience are needed to help an autistic child feel comfortable and connect with the pool environment, which many children with autism find scary. Ultimately our swim lessons help autistic children develop motor skills and enjoy a recreational activity with both physical and mental benefits that can last a lifetime.
Until we have raised enough money to open our own facility, we ask that you show us patience and treat us with compassion. Please stop by and introduce yourselves to us. We would love to have you join us and become a part of the One with the Water family!
Kenneth Rippetoe, MBA
One with the Water, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization