One of the greatest fears facing parents of children with autism is the risk of drowning due to lack of danger awareness. Almost immediately after relocating The Vista School to the Springboard campus in 2011, Vista’s Board of Directors embarked on construction of a swimming pool to address this critical safety issue.
The Board also committed to a five-year, $650,000 fundraising campaign to offset the costs of tenant improvements. The pool alone amounted to almost 40% of the total cost of the tenant build-out.
Thanks to the generosity of many donors, we ended our campaign on schedule and exceeded our fundraising goal! Not only are we able to teach critical water safety and awareness skills, but we also can help our students, who sometimes become quite sedentary as adolescents, to improve their overall health and fitness.
“It is a fun social event that allows for interactions with their peers and pairing time with staff,” said Mark Jackson, Vista behavior technician supervisor.
“Many students jump and splash while laughing in the pool. It is a big celebration for some classrooms when a student gets into the pool for the first time after months or years of not going in. The joy that these students experience transfers to the staff and brightens everyone’s day.”
Most Vista School students experience the world around them differently than does a typical child. They may be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to smells, touch, taste, sights, and sounds. “The hydrostatic pressure that the pool water provides alone can help each student in a variety of ways,” explains Doreen Hand, physical therapist.
“First, it can create a calming effect to a hyperactive body, helping to reduce behavioral outbursts. Second, for students who are not as coordinated and have trouble moving, it can help to increase the feel of their muscles and help them to learn to ‘feel’ their body more as they move; and third, it can provide a resistance to movement that helps to increase muscle strength. This makes the pool a therapy environment in and of itself.”
“I love that we have this opportunity provided to us on our campus,” Hand said.