Pilot pool sessions ‘a success’

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Autism NI has completed its final pilot ASD swim session programme at Lagan Valley Leisureplex and the charity said it has proved to be a ‘splashing success’.

The pilot programme was created by Autism NI and Lagan Valley Lesiureplex to identify specific needs and improvements needed to implement ASD specific swim sessions within the leisure pool.

Feedback was gained from over 200 attendees and the responses were extremely positive, with many families being able to use such a facility for the very first time.

The pilot sessions included the attendance being capped at a much lower level and sensory adaptations being made.

Kerry Boyd, Autism NI’s Director of Development commented: “Myself and a colleague attended all of the pilot sessions and it was heart-warming to see so many Autism families availing of this great facility and enjoying such a positive experience.

“Some parents who I spoke with told me that their children had not been able to access swimming facilities in years, as the noise and over-stimulation of a regular swim session would be too overwhelming for them.

“However, parents felt that the ASD swim sessions created a safe and calm environment for their families to relax in and somewhere where they or their child wouldn’t feel ‘judged’.”

Speaking after a session in the Lisburn pool, one parent said: “My son had a brilliant time and I definitely wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t an ASD session.

“The last time I took him he was 3 and he’s now 11. He loved it. It doesn’t matter if he has a meltdown because everybody else here understands.”

Autism NI will now present the results of their evaluation to the Lagan Valley Leisureplex and will advise on recommendations and any training needs required.

They hope that the ASD swim sessions will be up and running in the very near future.

Many leisure facilities are currently not accessible to someone with Autism due to their sensory issues. Therefore more and more parents are calling for reasonable adjustments to be made within entertainment and leisure venues so that someone with Autism can access them too.