Kids with disabilities learn swim safety

Texarkana News

TEXARKANA, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – Some kids with disabilities in the Texarkana area are learning survival skills in the water.

LaMoya Burks dries off her son, Marion, 7. He just finished up swim camp for the day. “We’ve gone from screaming, for what we thought, was for life (laughs), to just a growing way of trusting the instructor, who is a stranger.”

Marion has autism. His mother said lessons learned in the pool help him relax and increase his quality of life. “It is very important for him to touch base with the water and continue to grow to love it, but, to know what to do in the water.”

That’s the goal of this week-long class, which is led by instructors from non-profit group iCan Shine at the Texarkana Country Club. “What we really want them to know is how to be able to get to safety if they were to fall in the lake, off of a boat, or if they were to fall into a pool,” said Gaby Davis, an instructor with iCan Shine.

The classes are sponsored by Texarkana non-profit groups Runnin’ WJ Ranch and the Texarkana Down Syndrome Society.  

“There’s just not a whole lot of activities for different children in our community with different disabilities,” said Sam Clem, executive director of Runnin’ WJ Ranch, a group that provides therapeutic horseback riding for kids with disabilities. 

Parents at this swim class are grateful for the opportunities the class offers them and their children. “We’re no longer having to drive to areas such as Shreveport and Dallas,” said Burks.

In class, kids are coached on breath control and play water games that increase their confidence.  Children as young as three can take part. Melissa Massey’s granddaughter, Olivia, is the youngest participant. Oliva has Down Syndrome. “We tried to roll her on her back, she’s getting a little more comfortable with it, but she’s still not there yet so … baby steps, definitely baby steps.”

Massey helped organize the Texarkana Down Syndrome Society in honor of Olivia. She and Clem hope to organize more events like this in the future. “It’s actually something that could save their life,” Clem said.

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