Rylan Stone Shields Born September 24, 2009- July 11, 2017 in Willits California in Mendocino County California.

Mendocino County is a county located on the north coast of the U.S. state of California. Over 3hr drive to Sacramento and San Francisco.

The Need

July 12, 2017 “Yesterday my son unlocked a door, broke through a gate and drowned in the pool. I didn’t get to him on time. I tried cpr until the paramedics arrived. They took him to the hospital and worked on him for 50 minutes. He didn’t survive.” Jennifer Risch, Rylan’s mom.

July 22, 2017 “I feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of a well, curled up in the fetal position. I can’t escape this. I can’t close my eyes to block out the visuals and I can’t cover my ears to block out my thoughts. I can’t sleep. I have to force myself to eat. I don’t want to be alone and I can’t stand being around people. I swing from manic to devastated so fast I can’t keep up. So I switch to autopilot. My beautiful son is buried in the ground and I have to keep going. I have to accept that he is gone but I can’t. I hated his autism. I hated that he was so tormented by his own brain but I loved him. I miss him so much and I’m so angry with myself. I let the world make me feel like I had to fix him. I spent so much time doing that. I wish I could tell him that I’m sorry. That he was perfect. It was the world that wasn’t good enough for him. That’s what needed to be fixed.” Jennifer

“We lose so many children with autism to drowning. The rates of children being diagnosed is rising. It’s time to ensure that the services needed to meet the rise in autism are readily available. If I had access to a swim instructor who was qualified to teach my son, I wouldn’t have hesitated to get him involved. Unfortunately, the access wasn’t there, and the worst happened.” Jennifer Risch, when asked what you would like to come from this tragedy.

Our Mission

In his memory children will get these lifesaving skills. We have an amazing angel guiding us on this part of the Special Fishie journey. What we do can not be shared in one location. What we do needs to be done everywhere, for everyone no matter finances or location. We can and will make it happen!

Drownings happen because most instructors fail the ones that aren’t “typical” learners. Most are stuck in their ways of teaching and not able to see that all children are different and therefore learn differently.

Drownings are silent.

Drownings is the number one cause of death in children 4 and under.

Drownings is the number one cause of death for children with special needs throughout childhood!

As parents we take our child to a lesson and watch as they “fail”. Teachers say they can’t be taught. Parents, we believe them.

This is not true! Every child is teachable. 

Even though many can’t talk, they still communicate with their eyes, hands, body, attitude and facial expression. We have to be humble and open enough to hear what they are saying.

That is what sets Special Fishies apart from all other swim programs out there. Each student that we meet is a brand-new experience. We get to find the key to unlock their freedom together. By freedom I mean not just safety but real freedom! Children on the Autism spectrum, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder and any other childhood disorder that affects judgment and safety are drawn to water. Water is not only a physical attraction but an attraction physiological as well. For a child on the spectrum their vestibular system works differently.

The vestibular system is an incredible system your body has. It’s basically an internal gps that tells your body where it is in space in relation to gravity. When you swim your vestibular system is challenged in a different way than it is on land. A child that feels disconnected out of water finds a connection with their bodies in the water. A connection they instinctively crave. Swimming is a sensory seeker dream place. Lowers anxiety and produces more serotonin. A child after a swim session is more focused, attentive and happy which carries over through their day.

The First Step

Special Fishies has been asked to collaborate with a new non-profit, A.W.A.K.E.N Project. We will be able to travel up to Kern County, CA for retreats on a quarterly basis. Here is a description of these amazing retreats:

Annie Ybarra, I am the President and co-founder of the recently developing non profit, The A.W.A.K.E.N Project. My team and I create revitalizing holistic healing retreats for children on the spectrum and their families. Through a specialized transformational nutrition plan and various therapies as well as treatments we strive to bring significant and demonstrable healing to children on the spectrum, and an ultimate rejuvenation for parents that is so badly needed.

https://ybannie2289.wixsite.com/theawakenproject

This venture is one in the line of many to come. We plan on partnering with a organizations such as the JCC and/or YMCA and educate facilities to make these lessons available to everyone everywhere.

We plan on monthly park playdates to educate public on drowning prevention at adaptive playgrounds all over California and the West, just to start!

Special Fishies has also invited to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times in Mountain Center, California next year.

The Second Step

We are making an ebook and video series that parents and teachers can get to teach their own child/student.

We will be offering Facetime/Skype sessions for parents and teachers to help through. Once someone goes through training or takes a Fishie class they become a part of the Fishie family. Together we can make a difference and stop the drownings! One life saved is one family that won’t be broken forever.


We need donations for travel expenses, learning tools, education supplies, and help getting all these programs off the ground. It takes a village and we need ours to make this vision happen.

Help us take Special Fishies statewide! We can, and with your help and generosity we will!

Sponsorship Levels

Adopt a Fishie packages….

Get updates on your Fishie’s progress and breakthroughs!

$780 for a year of Group Swim for one Fishie 1x week

$1560 For a year of Semi Private for one Fishie 1x week

$2600 For a year of Private Lessons for one Fishie one time a week

 

Or become a Sponsored Member through your business

Guppy~ $1000 year  automatic payment ($83 a month) comes with newsletter, Tshirt and mention on Social Media and connect to our website.

Dolphin~ $2000/year ($166/mo) Same as Guppy but Logo on marketing material.

Great White Shark~ $4000/year ($333.33/mo) Same as above with mention at all events, logo on all marketing material and promoted on social media.


To donate: Mail donations to 34111 Amber Lantern St, Dana Point CA  92629



Thank you!

Jodi Powell

President, Special Fishies: Aquatic Freedom and Education

Non-Profit 501 (c)(3) #45-4557018

May every special child find a love for and a freedom in the water!

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