Swim program for children on the spectrum starting soon in Lincoln

A swim program for children on the spectrum will be starting in late December, early January in...
A swim program for children on the spectrum will be starting in late December, early January in Lincoln.(Amanda Rickert)
Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A new swim program for children on the Autism Spectrum is expected to start in late December of this year. Parents said the purpose of the program, put on collectively by the Autism Family Network and Josh the Otter Foundations, is two-fold. It serves as an extracurricular activity but also teaches children life-saving skills.

As long as Amanda Rickert can remember, her son Chet has loved the water.

“He loves the water. He will play in the sprinkler for hours if I let him,” said Rickert. “He loves the lake, too.”

Chet was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. Rickert said it’s been hard to find extracurricular activities that suit his exact needs.

“We’ve taken him to several different places,” said Rickert. “It’s just not quite the right fit, because he really needs a private lesson, that really focuses on his needs, and not the other students.”

Swim lessons are necessary too; according to the National Autism Association, 48% of children with autism spectrum disorder tend to wander. Cathy Martinez, with the Autism Family Network, says this inclusive program is a must for families with children on the spectrum.

“Drowning is the number one cause of death for children on the spectrum under the age of 14,” said Martinez. “It’s incredibly important these individuals have opportunities to learn life-saving techniques.”

Martinez expects lessons to start in late December or early January.

The swim program also received a $10,000 donation from the Reach Academy in New York City. It’s run by Florencio Palomo, a Nebraska native. It teaches children with special needs swimming skills.

“Whatever it goes to, I believe in the program,” said Palomo. “I believe they’re going to use that money to start an amazing program for children on the spectrum.”

Rickert said these lessons are exactly what she and Chet needed.

“I don’t care when it is, or what time it is, I will make it work because it is just something that will be so beneficial for him,” said Rickert. “I wouldn’t have to worry about him so much if he happens to be around water if I’m not there.”

AFN and Josh The Otter are going to travel to Reach Academy in November to observe the program. Then, they will return to train instructors and develop a curriculum before the program starts up in Lincoln.

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