Swim Buddies Program Helps Children with Autism in Harrison Coun - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Swim Buddies Program Helps Children with Autism in Harrison County

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CLARKSBURG -

For the past four weeks the YMCA in Clarksburg has held a swim class for children with autism.

The children work with swim buddies who teach them the basics of swimming.

The Corridor Chapter of the Autism Society of West Virginia teamed up with the YMCA to make the program possible.

"We have chosen buddies for each swimmer. All of the swimmers are on the autism spectrum and the buddies are on the swim team here. The kids are learning skills, they are having social opportunities," said Lea Robinson, the president of the Corridor Chapter of AS-WV.

Robinson said the swimmers aren't the only ones who benefit.

"The buddies love it. We've talked to each and every one of them and they said they are touched deeply for the rest of their lives. This has been an experience for all of us," Robinson explained.

Robinson and Carol Ford both have children in the swimming program and they said it's very beneficial.

"He has absolutely loved this, he loves the water, and structure is vital for our kids," said Robinson.

"My son who could already swim is now learning how to do the strokes and it's a stepping block for them to actually be on the swim team which is what we're hoping for," explained Ford, who is the secretary for the Corridor Chapter of AS-WV.

While the swimmers are learning water safety, swim strokes, and more, their siblings are having fun as well.

"Sometimes having a brother or sister with autism can be very stressful. Our sibling support group, we do activities that help them identify who they are. We focus on things that are important to them," said Peggy Hovatter, with the Marshall University Autism Training Center.

Hovatter said in addition to talking and learning, the kids get to do projects.

"We made a little worry box that they painted and decorated and whenever there is something that is worrying them they can jot it down on a piece of paper and put it in their worry box," Hovatter said.

Saturday was the final day of the swim class. Each swimmer received a medal, a T-shirt and a group picture.