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Managing Sensory Overload for Children With Special Needs

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Brought to you by: topoccupationaltherapyschool.com

Some common behavioral issues present in children may actually be signs of a sensory processing disorder. Children with sensory processing disorders can experience an aversion or exhibit a negative response to anything that triggers their senses, including lights, sounds, smells, tastes, and even touch.

When children with sensory processing disorders encounter their triggers, they may experience sensory overload, which can cause them to lash out physically or verbally, shut down, or exhibit other signs of distress. According to UCSF, sensory processing disorders affect between 5% to 16% of school-age children, making it more common than Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Learning how to manage a sensory processing disorder effectively, as a child with the disorder and as an adult in that child’s life, must start with understanding the biology of sensory processing disorders as well as the signs of sensory processing disorder and their comorbidities.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

The Star Institute defines sensory processing disorder (SPD) as “a neurological disorder in which the sensory information that the individual perceives results in abnormal responses.” These abnormal responses can also include sensory overload. Sensory overload can be the result of prolonged exposure to a trigger, or experiencing too much of a trigger at once.

Sensory processing disorders are most common in children, but can also appear in adults. There are eight types of sensory processing that can be affected by a sensory processing disorder:

  • Proprioception: This is related to body awareness, which includes posture, motor skills, and spatial awareness.
  • Vestibular: This is related to coordination and balance.
  • Interoception: This type of processing is related to sensation and emotion. This includes being able to identify temperature, being able to identify the amount of force you’re applying to something, and being able to identify or connect with your emotions.
  • The Five Senses: This includes taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing, both the perception and identification of these senses, as well as being able to interact through these senses — for example, being able to touch as well as be touched.

The symptoms of sensory processing disorder can vary depending on a child’s age group. If you work closely with children — either as a parent, pediatrician, teacher, or occupational therapist — you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

Preschoolers (2 – 4)

Symptoms of sensory processing disorder in preschool-aged children can include:

  • Sensitivity or overreaction to sensory experiences — including noises, smells, touch, lights, and tastes;
  • Difficulty learning fine motor skills, such as using clothing fasteners or writing utensils;
  • Lack of awareness of personal space — including their own and others;
  • Being in constant motion, either unconsciously or for active self-soothing;
  • Being overly aggressive or overly withdrawn in social groups;
  • Experiencing sudden and frequent mood swings, and being difficult to calm or soothe;
  • Difficulty understanding verbal instructions, or significant delays in response to verbal instructions;
  • Difficulty being toilet-trained or inconsistency in toilet training;
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding the child’s speech.

Elementary Age (5 – 10)

Symptoms of sensory processing disorder in elementary-aged children can include:

  • Sensitivity or overreaction to sensory experiences — including noises, smells, touch, lights, and tastes;
  • Becoming easily distracted from current tasks, at home and in the classroom;
  • Feeling easily or quickly overwhelmed;
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing;
  • Becoming overly aggressive during play;
  • Being in constant motion, either unconsciously or for active self-soothing;
  • Being slow to perform or respond to tasks;
  • Feeling overly aggressive or overly withdrawn in social settings;
  • Frequently confusing similar sounding words, or misinterpreting requests;
  • Lack of awareness of personal space — including their own and others;
  • Hyper-focusing on a single task or activity;
  • Difficulty reading aloud;
  • Stumbling or hesitant speech patterns.

Adolescents (11- 19)

Symptoms of sensory processing disorder in adolescents can include:

  • Aversion to touch;
  • Oversensitivity to their environment;
  • Use of inappropriate force when interacting with objects;
  • Difficulty with sequencing task steps;
  • Being constantly in motion, either subconsciously or actively;
  • A tendency to begin several tasks simultaneously and leave tasks unfinished;
  • A lacks of spatial awareness; a tendency to bumps into things or develop bruises they can’t recall;
  • A tendency to misinterprets requests, especially without excessive clarification;
  • Difficulty ideating and forming topics for projects, presentations, essays and speeches independently;
  • Difficulty reading aloud.

Signs of Sensory Overload

The signs of sensory overload can differ depending on age, trigger, and even the child’s personality. The most common signs of sensory overload are:

  • Inability to maintain focus on anything but the trigger;
  • Extreme irritability or mood swings;
  • A tendency to cover the ears, eyes, or head to block out sensory input;
  • The inability to be calmed until the trigger is removed.

If you’re noticing signs of sensory overload in a child, there are two things that you can do; remove the trigger if possible, and escort the child, if they are willing, to a safe space where they can calm themselves.

Comorbidities and Related Conditions

Sensory processing disorder is often related to several other health conditions including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD);
  • ADHD;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • Fibromyalgia.

Because SPD is often present with other conditions, and due to the fact that it can manifest in hard-to-detect ways, it is often underdiagnosed, despite its commonality. However, sensory processing disorder can manifest independently, or may need separate management if it does appear as a comorbidity. OT or OTAs may be able to help identify SPD as a comorbidity to your child’s current condition.

Strategies for Managing Sensory Processing Disorder

Whether you’re a parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, or you’re an occupational therapy professional working with children and adolescents with sensory processing disorder, there are some general management strategies that you can use to assist a child with SPD, such as:

  • Keep routines and possessions organized;
  • Be consistent with rules and consequences;
  • Keep an activity schedule or calendar posted;
  • Have a designated safe space specifically for breaks or cooldowns.

These strategies can be very helpful in most cases, however, each child’s SPD is different. Therefore, as the adult helping them manage their condition, you should tailor your treatment or management strategies to their individual needs, as well as their environments.

Sensory Processing in the Home

Here are some sensory at-home activities that can help your child manage their SPD. These activities should be considered with your specific child or patient’s needs in mind before employing or recommending them:

  • Bath Time: Experimenting with different scents, types of soaps — such as foams, gels, and bars — and incorporating different textured toys or washcloths can help your child interact and play with sensory input on their own terms and in a way that is rewarding.
  • Play Time: Encourage your child to create or determine the games or activities they would like to play, and the rules by which they would like to play them. This can help you work on compromise as you negotiate game terms, and give your child a feeling of autonomy and control. This can also help your child establish physical boundaries and respect others’ boundaries during playtime.
  • Bed Time: Weighted blankets can be a great option for children with SPD, as the feeling of the weight can be comforting and encourage better quality sleep. You can also practice speech and retention skills at bedtime, by having your child read aloud, or by reading a chapter book together over the course of several nights.
  • Meal Time: You can encourage your child to eat new foods and experience new textures by having them assist with the preparation of their meal (with supervision) or by using other positive reinforcements — for example, edible food glitter can make new foods appear magical and exciting.

Sensory Processing Outside the Home

If you are the parent or professional working with a child with SPD, there are ways that you can help them encounter new or overwhelming sensory input in various places. These activities should be considered with your specific child or patient’s needs in mind before employing or recommending them:

  • Grocery Shopping: You can have your child bring the items that are within their reach to the cart, allowing them to choose what they want to interact with. You can also allow them to push the cart if they are able, which can give them a feeling of control and importance.
  • Vacation: If you’re going to be traveling far away from home, you can ask your child to build their own sensory travel kit with the things that will help them feel safe. This can include toys, books, blankets, or special clothes. For older kids, practicing the trip and having an established itinerary can help them avoid sensory overload — this can include going over the intended route or visiting the airport.
  • Doctor’s appointments: Doctors and dentist appointments can be especially stressful for children with SPD. To reduce this stress, you can have your child bring a fidget toy, wear a weighted vest, or bring headphones to block out office noise. Additionally, you can talk with your care provider to come up with a plan for the appointment. This can include your care provider showing and explaining each tool to your child before using it or lowering lights in the exam room if possible.

Sensory Processing at School

Fidget tools have been specifically designed to help children with SPD or hyperactivity disorders manage their needs in the classroom. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Wiggle seats;
  • Kneadable erasers;
  • Sensory kits;
  • Thinking Putty;
  • Tactile Balls.

Teachers may also find it helpful to employ a system of nonverbal signals for students with SPD so that they can communicate their needs without disrupting other students. This could be flashing a colored card if they need to take a time out, or indicating how they’re feeling with magnets or stickers.

How to Find an Occupational Therapist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 18% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations,” making occupational therapy a career in high demand. Occupational therapists work with individuals of all types, including children and adolescents with SPD and other comorbidities, to help them manage their condition and lead happier lives.

If you are the parent of a child in need of occupational therapy, you can use your insurance portal to find OTs or OTAs near you. You can also ask for a referral from your pediatrician, or school guidance counselor.

Managing Sensory Overload as an Occupational Therapist

If you’re interested in working with SPD, your occupational therapy program may have specific training available for working with children or working with sensory disorders. If specific training isn’t available through your school, you can look for opportunities to shadow OTs that work with children with SPD. The American Occupational Therapy Association may also have resources for specific SPD training or procedural news.

Additional Resources

There are additional support resources available for parents of children with SPD, including Individualized Education Plans (IEP) that you can pursue through your child’s school. An IEP can ensure that your child’s mental health needs, as well as their educational needs, are being met. You can discuss an IEP with your child’s teacher, or your teacher may recommend an IEP for your child.

Support groups for parents and children and extracurricular activities are also available for families living with SPD:


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New Year’s Resolution

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Happy holidays! 

It has been quite the year for us. Which is why for the first time in like 20 years I am making resolutions for myself, my family and my Fishie family all of you. I don’t expect to do it perfectly but its 2020. Time to slow down see clear all the amazingness around me. 

My new year’s resolution is to take better care of myself. As mommy, business owner, nonprofit president, and homeschooling there are many hats to wear. I don’t want to drop any and I don’t want to burn out and give less than 100% to all my hats. I realized with the help of some great friends that I need to prioritize, and number one take care of me. Without a healthy happy me, not many hats will continue to exist.

Priorities of Mama Fishie:

  • Self-care: eat right, exercise, and take me time once a week for at least a few hours.  Care for body, mind and spirit.
  • Finding a pool was #2 but we did it!!!
  • The boys and their schooling are my top priority after self-care.

There is no such thing as balance, as when we think we have it another hat gets thrown your way. What this means for all of you is no travel, I will have to start saying no and less events will be attended. 

Opening our doors to adults with all abilities. Papa Ron Legacy brings aquatic freedom and strengthening to those that do not have freedom on land. It makes my heart bank full knowing I can finally reach a population I have wanted to work with since I began Special Fishies.

One location only to start, I am so sorry to those in North San Diego County and Orange County. This breaks my heart more than anyone can know. The traveling we did last summer took a big toll on boys and I. I am hopeful by summer we can do camps up in Oceanside, SD through the city. Until then come once a month!

Keep your Fishie swimming with me or elsewhere, just keep them swimming. If you find a teacher that is ok but not great contact me, I can train them here. I will also offer 1x month class for those that want to continue but can’t do the drive every week (I get it!). Our camps will be offered by the day as well. We will be offering ocean safety days once a month in Spring and twice a month in Summer. 

Education series. This is so close to my heart as its main purpose is to educate parents how to work with their children at a very young age in the tub preparing them for water safety. Those teachers that want to learn how to teach outside the box for all abilities. Offer a Facebook group for coaches and one for families to help one another as well as come to me with questions. Help one another get strong and our loved ones strong and safe. No more drownings and no more restriction on land when there is freedom to be had. 

Please take the time to forward our information on to adults you know who would benefit from our work or children that need to be water safe and strong. 6mos – 80+ years. Also, teachers/coaches and parents that would like to participate in the educational series videos. 

We look forward to bringing Special Fishies to the San Diego community in 2020!!!

Take care of you and yours. See you at the pool/beach!

We wish you a wonderful year ahead filled with much happiness, good health and lots of love.

 

Mama Fishie

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Autism and Swimming: What should I worry about?

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All kids love the water, but for some…we need to be more diligent.

All kids love to swim, the pool and beach are two of my kids favorite places to be. It wouldn’t be a weekend if my boys were swimming and splashing. I taught my boys from infancy how to float on their backs, blow bubbles, and doggie paddle to the wall for safety. All babies can learn, all kids should and can learn. Don’t let a swim coach deviate your goals of having a happy, healthy and safe swimmer…no matter what your child’s prognosis! 

Here are some scary facts to consider:

Columbia University looked at more than 39 million death records over a 16-year period to determine the relationship between autism and death by injury. Here is a link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28323463

Over all, individuals with autism died on average almost 36 years younger than the general population. Almost 28 percent died prematurely by injury, which includes complications from epileptic seizures and suicide (both epilepsy and depression are common in this population).

According to the study, individuals with autism also die by accidental injury at a rate three times higher than the general population. The rate was particularly high for children younger than 15 years of age.

According to researchers, almost half (46 percent) of unintentional injury deaths for children with autism occurred by drowning – and the “danger years” are between ages five to seven.

Children with autism drown 160 times more frequently than their neurotypical peers.

Several earlier studies show similar patterns of a significantly increased risk for accidental drowning for those with developmental disabilities, including autism, though the range of risk varies widely.

The good news is that something can be done. These are preventable deaths. Public health officials have been enacting ways to prevent accidental drowning in this specific population. There are Drowning Prevention Task forces throughout LA, OC and SD counties. Look up your local chapter!

Providing accessible water safety courses and swimming lessons specifically tailored to those with autism are cost-effective to implement and have almost immediate impact. Such programming have the double bonus of providing both safety and recreational benefits for autism families. Some counties offer scholarships and free tuition based on need funds. There are  swim schools who take Charter School funds to help with costs. Ask around!

This is why Special Fishies was created. We want to get the word out that these kids can learn water safety and find freedom in the water! We want to educate every coach, parent and caregiver on techniques and tools that we use everyday and get results with. Check out our YouTube videos to see the joy the water brings to our fishies, and we’ll be posting some educational videos soon!

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Give the Gift of Swim Lessons

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The best gift for kids under the tree this year will last them a lifetime!

While a swimming pool won’t fit under the Christmas tree — not to mention that it would be impossible to gift wrap — there’s a better way to give this life-changing experience to children, and fortunately, it’s a lot more practical.

The gift of swimming lessons is one of the most valuable things you can give to children. It’s not the latest gadget, and it might take some time to understand the importance, but ultimately this can be a gift that will never be forgotten and used for the rest of their lives.

How young is too young to learn how to swim?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended that most children should learn to swim starting at the age of 4. It’s because of the growing number of studies showing that children that young may be less likely to drown if they’ve been taught to swim.

The gift of safety

We think of swimming lessons for children as a way to make it safer for them to be around water – and that’s the most important reason to consider giving swim lessons as a holiday gift. Drowning statistics for children remain alarmingly high – especially in areas like California where water is a constant part of the environment. Water safety is a precious gift, but the benefits definitely don’t stop there.

Amazing health benefits

A study by Griffith University found that children as young as 3 years old who were actively engaged in swimming lessons were often months and sometimes years ahead of non-swimmers in certain developmental milestones. Medical experts attribute this to the movements involved in swimming, which help to develop nerve fibers connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) agrees, citing research showing that increased blood flow during swimming improved cognitive functions.

Preparing for the future

Most gifts have a specific lifespan. Gadgets get outdated or forgotten. The gift of swimming lessons is an experience that can benefit over a lifetime. Once learned, swimming is a skill that’s rarely forgotten. It increases confidence and teaches important social skills like team-building that children will use throughout their lives.

The gift of swim lessons might just be the only present you can give this holiday that offers your child so many benefits. No batteries are needed, and you don’t have to worry about an Internet connection.

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Want a smarter child? Teach them to swim!

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We know that teaching children to swim is a good idea for their own water safety, but now it appears that children to learn to swim at a young age also achieve many developmental milestones earlier than children who aren’t exposed to this learning opportunity.

The study was undertaken by Australia’s Griffith University. Researchers surveyed the parents of 7,000 children under the age of five from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Then, researchers went on to test 180 children between the ages of three and five. The results were conclusive. Children who participate in swimming lessons during these early years also achieve a wide range of skills earlier than the normal population.

The results

The head of the study notes that many of these skills are those which help young children transition into their first years of schooling. The children achieved physical milestones faster and they scored significantly better in visual-motor skills. Their oral expression was advanced and they performed better overall in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

The children in the study were also found to have better balance and coordination than their peers who weren’t actively learning to swim. The Griffith University concluded that the earlier you start your child in a swim class, the more pronounced this jump in development might become.

Increased cognitive development

Some of the findings of the study seem logically connected. For example, development of better motor skills is an obvious outcome of swimming lessons, as learning to swim involves the use of muscles and coordination to develop motor skills.

What the Griffith University researchers did not expect to see was that cognition in these children was also significantly improved. The study determined that swimming helps to advance cognitive development by as much as 10 months ahead of the normal population.

Cognitive development has to do with higher levels of reasoning in areas like reading, writing, and arithmetic. These little swimmers are in many ways setting the stage for a life of academic success.

Better language skills

Learning to swim at this young age can help children develop deeper usage of language. It’s believed that this is because swimming instructors introduce children to a new set of vocabulary words. “Swim under the water to the yellow triangle,” might not be something they would otherwise hear.

Learning to swim can expose young minds to important speech elements such as prepositions, and useful concepts like shapes and colors. Interacting with these new pieces of communication can help them to improve their own use of language.

Emotional and social aptitude

Developing intelligence is important, but just as important is learning to function with others. The study found that young children involved in group swimming lessons were about 15 months ahead of the normal population in their social and emotional development.

These young swimmers tended to understand direction better, which helps them adapt to listen and respond to teachers as they move into the classroom. They also become more comfortable interacting with their peers, as well as with adults other than their own parents.

The researchers concluded that there is a clear connection between emotional maturity and the group dynamics of swimming lessons.

Water safety is a key benefit of teaching young children to swim. Now, there’s research showing that it can also help boost early childhood development in cognitive and social areas. Swimming lessons can help your young child learn how to learn.

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4 Reasons Group Swimming Lessons Are Better Than Private Lessons

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Group swimming lessons offer several advantages

If you have a young child that’s just starting to show interest in swimming, you may be tempted to sign him or her up for private swim lessons. It’s understandable to think that private swim lessons may be superior to group lessons, but group swimming lessons have several advantages that you may be overlooking.

If you’re interested in signing your child up for swim lessons and are wondering whether group swim lessons are the right choice, read on to learn about the benefits of a group setting.

1. Learn from other children

Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, even in young children. If you’ve ever dropped your child off at daycare where he or she is exposed to other children, you likely were amazed when you picked them up only to realize that they’d learned a valuable skill like using utensils or sitting in a chair at a table, all simply based on learning from other children.

When your child is involved in group swimming lessons, they’re not only paying attention to the instructor, but they’re also watching other kids as well. When they see another child jumping in the water or having fun splashing, it will likely give them that extra boost of confidence they need. This is simply not possible with private lessons where all instruction is one on one, which doesn’t allow your child to see other children and how they react in the water.

Typically swim instructors will spend time with each child during a group lesson, which allows the children in the class to see how others are performing. This can help to put your child at ease when it’s their turn with the instructor.

2. Save money

Costs are lower with group swimming lessons. You still receive quality instruction, but at a lower price, which can make swim lessons more affordable for a wider range of families.

3. Less focus on your child

This may seem counterintuitive, but group swim lessons can provide less focus on your child throughout the entire lesson, which can be a good thing. Rather than spending 100 percent of the time focused on your child and your child alone, group swimming lessons allow for a bit of rest and play time while other students are receiving instruction. This is beneficial especially for young children who may have trouble with constant instruction for long periods of time.

Kids who are struggling to learn a new task often need some period of downtime to recover and refocus during a swim lesson, which is what’s provided in the group setting.

4. Build relationships with other parents

Being a parent of young children can be difficult at times. You’re likely exhausted and struggling to find adult interaction with other parents of young children. Signing up for group swimming lessons connects you with other parents and children who are close in age to you and your child. You never know, you may develop a relationship that could turn into a lifelong friendship for you and/or your child.

Ready to sign up for group swimming lessons?

If your child is intimidated by the water or loves it and needs swim lessons, reach out to us to learn more about our wide variety of group swimming lessons. We offer swim lessons for all ages including toddlers, pre-school and school-age children. Call (714) 352-9714 or through our online contact form.

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The Importance of Swim Lessons for Special Needs Children

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Swim lessons for special needs children are a powerful way to help develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

All children should learn how to swim and be safer around the water. It’s a skill that could save their lives, and it’s a skill that can be successfully taught to children with special needs.

Swim lessons for special needs children have benefits that go beyond learning this necessary skill. Children learn to be safer around water. Some children with sensory disorders find water and showers very stressful and learning to swim helps them cope with this stress. Here are some of the many additional benefits.

Boosts confidence

Swim lessons offer special needs children a restriction-free moment for the first time in their lives. It can condition young bodies while it bestows confidence and a sense of achievement.

Safety is the primary objective of teaching special needs children to swim. All children – but especially this group – lack an understanding of the danger posed by water.

Children who learn to swim also develop a better spatial awareness that comes as they learn to use reference points while exploring water depth. This increase spatial awareness, along with the development of natural balance, can help prevent children with special needs from drowning if they accidentally fall into the water.

Physical benefits

The pool is a relaxing and fun environment for exercise for kids of any ability level. Water resistance helps to build muscle tone and general strength. Learning to swim helps children with disabilities develop motor skills, coordination, and balance. They’re isolating muscle groups and learning how to coordinate different motions as they learn to move through the water and float.

Special needs children with movement restrictions often thrive in the pool. The water helps to improve their range of motion. Remember that buoyancy in water reduces our body weight by 80 percent. Swim lessons provide an environment offering freedom of movement, as well as safety skills.

Emotional and social benefits

Swim classes for special needs children are a powerful way to help develop self-confidence and self-esteem. Learning to swim teaches them new skills and offers a sense of achievement as they are encouraged to explore their boundaries and discover new abilities.

Swim lessons are designed especially for special needs children based on potential and restrictions, and the object is to help them progress to the point where they can function in a group. The progression exposes them to new social interactions, helping to prepare them for the dynamics of interaction in the world around them.

It’s not uncommon for non-verbal special needs children to interact with their swim instructor and other participants. They begin to increase their vocabulary so they can describe their experiences in the water. The physical act of swimming has been shown to balance both hemispheres of the brain. Swimming often helps calm special needs children who act out. It’s a time of intensive sensory stimulation that other environments can’t provide.

Swim lessons for special needs children can change their lives. If you’re interested in learning more about our swim lessons, feel free to reach out today by phone at 714-352-9714 or by visiting our contact page.

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Adopt a Fishie

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Adopt a Fishie Fund

Follow your adopted Fishie through their swim progress with email updates and pictures! ACTUALLY see where your money goes, how it is used and why we so badly need your generosity.

Please meet a few of our scholarship recipients…

Jesus D. 9 yo with severe autism, fear and nonverbal. Water safety, Social skills, and sensory play gives Jesus a smile that is contagious to all around him.

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah 18 yo who contacted encephalitis when he was an active 14 yo football player and student. He loves to protect the littles and faces his fears each time in the water. Elijah has benefited from our learn to swim, swim group, canine assisted swim and ALL-INCLUSIVE beach days. Elijah found us through his case manager and doctor at CHOC. Our goal is to get him moving, stronger and build confidence so he can once again compete in a sport, and he is stoked to do it for SPECIAL OLYMPICS.

 

 

 

Jeremiah and Cayson- Jeremiah, 12 yo, is an intelligent and talented swimmer who has ASD. He knows all 4 strokes and we hope to streamline him into the Nadadore Swim Team. His older brother, Cayson was in a car accident when he was 3 yo. He is smart, funny, and happens to be quadriplegic with physical and brain trauma.

These amazing boys came to us through a fellow non profit, Angels of Americas Fallen, who helps children who lost a parent overseas protecting our freedoms.

 

Kaden, 12 yo with ASD and comorbid disorders, is learning to swim strokes which is helping him with his motor delay and coordination.

 

 

 

 

 

THESE ARE JUST A TASTE OF THE FACES

OF FISHIES THAT NEED OUR HELP.

#TOGETHERWECAN

 

 

We have 6 more fishies on our waiting list.

All needs: Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, anxiety and amputee
To donate go to the Ways to Help or email specialfishiesjp@gmail.com

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