The All-In Swim program provides lessons that teach water safety and swim skills with patience, positive reinforcement, clear goals and expectations, and rewards. All students will have a 30-minute evaluation and then be placed into one of three class options: 30 minute private lessons (extended from 15 minutes), a small group lesson with a 1:2 ratio, or integrated into a group lesson with a 1:4 ratio. Upon class placement, our swim instructors create monthly goals for swimmers. Goals are customized based on each child’s swimming abilities and needs. These goals are communicated with each swimmers parents and/or guardian. We use a token system during each lesson as a reinforcer to help swimmers reach their monthly goals.
Each class incorporates creative games and play, as well as visual instruction such as picture cards. For certain sensory sensitivities, textured mats, wet suits, water toys and flotation devices may be used to maximize the experience. With seven levels of learning, students will make progress at their own pace.
Learning to swim is a healthy activity for kids, according to parent David Ben-Arie, because it is an exhausting, full-body workout (especially for those who are very active or energetic) that doubles as a social skill. “It’s also a safety issue, especially when living by a lake, so for me it covers all those bases.”
“I was looking for a place where he could do private swim classes with someone who had experience teaching kids with special needs and autism, and it was really, really hard to find,” he said. He found it at JCC Chicago.
At JCC, for students with sensory issues, extra time is taken to introduce swim caps and goggles, as well as to familiarize kids with the noises of the pool room, the feel of the water and even the reflection of lights on the ceiling.
Doubling the length of time from 15 to 30 minutes per class is crucial, especially for kids with autism who have problems with transitions. “JCC allowed us to do a half-hour class for the same price, instead of paying double, which is really important.” He said Amadeo’s instructor, Cassaundra Dolan, understood the patience kids with autism require and was accommodating to his needs.
After nine months of swimming lessons, Ben-Arie said he can see subtle improvements in his son’s confidence around the water, such as when Amadeo cautiously ventured into the shallow side of the hotel pool. It was the first time his son decided on his own to play in the water, a direct result of the sort of progress he’s made through the program. – Dayna Field, reporter, Chicago Tribune