Ask any lifeguard at the North Spokane YMCA about Quinton and they’ll immediately crack a smile. The 15 year-old, who has autism, has been coming to the Y with his family two times a week for over three and half years. From the moment he walks in the door, Quinton is greeted with ‘hellos’ and high-fives from staff all eager to watch him grow and develop new skills. His mother, Christina, estimates Quinton has had over 300 swim lessons at the North Y.
“He loves the water, but he didn’t know how to swim. We wanted to feel comfortable bringing him to the pool, lake, or boating, and have that peace of mind that he has some sort of water safety awareness,” Christina said. When his lessons began, Quinton couldn’t tread water, “the first day he hopped in the pool he sank to the bottom…so that was his starting point.”
When lessons began, Quinton’s parents arranged for his Behavior Specialist to accompany them, to discuss with Marty, YMCA Swim Instructor, the best way to integrate behavior therapy principles into his lessons. Even though in the beginning, much of Quinton’s communication was non-verbal, Marty was able to use laminated cards to find out how Quinton was feeling and explain what they were going to do next. “It’s gratifying to see Marty work with Quinton and put in all of that effort,” Quinton’s father, John, said.
Christina raves about the work Marty and the YMCA have been able to do, and how that has impacted Quinton’s growth, “he looked at Quinton, a kid that has some obstacles to learning because of his autism, and said ‘I am going to teach you in a way you learn, in a way that works for you’ and that was huge for us. Not everyone has the patience and caring to do that.”
The impacts of the Y swim lessons don’t end when Quinton leaves the pool. The lessons are integrated into his behavior therapy, helping him along and furthering his independence. “It has been invaluable. These lessons are so integral to his care, everything he does benefits from it,” Christina said. His parents see value in all the interactions around the YMCA, serving as benchmarks for his communication and social skills.
“One of our goals for these lessons was to see him be more confident around the water, and certainly for him to enjoy himself. But we also know how important it is to build a community around him. To surround him with people that love and support him, that’s why we chose the YMCA,” John said.
Among the familiar faces at the North Y for Quinton is his brother, Cole. After a few gentle nudges from Marty, Cole took his own swim lessons, completed lifeguard certification, and now is a guard at the North Y. “It really is a whole family thing now,” Christina said. “The YMCA has been a big part of our life.”
The whole family sits to watch Quinton’s lesson. Christina, John and Cole all cheer his successes, and encourage him during his failures. After over 300 lessons, Quinton is swimming laps up and down the pool with his trainer, Marty, right by his side.
The YMCA of the Inland Northwest partners with the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) to provide opportunities for parents or caregivers to use respite care funds on nurturing and exciting activities. Respite activities commonly used include private swim lessons, summer day camp, personal training, facility day passes and YMCA Camp Reed. For more information on how to use the DDA program for respite at the Y, contact Rachel Mildebrandt, firstname.lastname@example.org 509 720 5790.