Bogeys, Butterflies & Buoyancy

May 07, 2024

This week’s edition of Another Normal focuses on the pursuit of passion. Whether it’s sports, dance, art or some other endeavor, developing skills helps develop self-esteem and self-confidence. This is so important for all young adults, especially those with disabilities.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and recommending outlets and organizations that help individuals with special needs bloom and grow. It enables us all to learn from one another, one comment at a time.

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You’re a shining star.  No matter who you are.  Shine bright to see.  What you can truly be!

--Earth Wind & Fire

I’ve got this!

Amy Bockerstette has set the world on fire with her golf drive and determination. Now in her third season on the women’s golf team at Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona, Amy recently became the first person with Down syndrome to compete in a collegiate championship at any level.  Along with her family, she created the I Got This Foundation to promote golf instruction and playing opportunities for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.  Her father, who is also her caddie, advises parents to expect the most from their children with disabilities.  “Don't put limits on them,” he said last week. “They are far, far more capable than you can imagine.”

Butterflies are free to fly.

Ian Hockley is a beautiful example of turning grief into goodness. His nonprofit, Dylan’s Wings of Change, honors his son who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.  This organization hosts a free virtual camp for young people with disabilities, offering opportunities to explore the performing arts, make friendships and feel welcomed, supported and included.  What a beautiful testament to a beautiful boy.  Camp is still accepting applications for summer programming. Do you know someone who might be interested? What’s your son or daughter’s favorite virtual activity these days?

Making a splash.

If there’s one person in the world who has taught me how to support my son with disabilities, connect with other parents, and find joy in life – it’s Ailene Tisser.  A physical therapist by training and a natural source of inspiration and encouragement to everyone she meets, Tisser is the founder of Swim Angelfish, a world-renowned leader in adaptive swim.  She and her partner, Cindy Freedman, have committed their lives to helping individuals of all abilities swim more safely and confidently in all types of water. 

Because of his work with Ailene and Angelfish, our son with cerebral palsy is completely at home in the water and able to enjoy friends and family for assisted swims and an annual “East Dock Dunk” on the Connecticut coastline.  Working in the water, in the absence of gravity, has enabled him to experience cardiovascular workouts, strengthen key muscle groups, practice social skills and increase his self-confidence.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

“Water-based therapy is wonderful for all different abilities and ages,” says Tisser. “Breath control underwater helps increase speech and normalize muscle tone.  And it also enables individuals with disabilities to participate more fully in their communities.”  In order to achieve these benefits, however, Tisser urges families to demand their swim instructors have special training.  “This is something parents must inquire about and seek out,” she explains. Angelfish can help.

Because adaptive swim instruction is an unregulated field, limited standards exist and many programs can claim to be “disability-friendly” without any real skills or training.  Drowning is the number one cause of death among individuals with autism who elope or escape without supervision, says Tisser.  “They are drawn to the water and often very impulsive with limited safety awareness. We simply must teach them how to protect themselves.”  

Tisser and Freedman started working with individuals with special needs in the water doing physical and occupational therapy. When they tried to integrate students into the swim community for lessons, they realized there were no programs to accommodate these families.  This led them to develop a curriculum to train other instructors.  By packaging their knowledge as therapists to teach others how to assess and identify the underlying problems swimmers were having, they devised strategies and techniques that swim instructors can use to overcome key obstacles.  Their online certification program has been deployed throughout the U.S. as well as Germany, Australia, Italy, India, Qatar, Dubai and more to help swimmers of all abilities gain independence in the water.  

With more than 300 instructors now certified and safely teaching individuals with disabilities across the globe, Ailene is clearly fulfilling her dreams.  Perhaps she can impact yours, too.  Free videos for parents, coaches and instructors are available here, along with a comprehensive online training program for aquatic professionals.  The Swim Angelfish YouTube channel also offers tips and techniques for individuals of all abilities.

Swimming is just one of many fun outdoor activities that seem to geer up when the warm weather arrives.  What are you doing to prepare for summer?

Interested in learning more about one-to-one coaching? Contact Kris for information on what this might look like for you, including outcomes, availability, fees and more.

Contact Kris

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