YMCA Teaches Water Safety Skills to Campers with Diverse Abilities

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Asheville, N.C., Aug. 11, 2021 – This summer, swim instructors from the YMCA of Western North Carolina collaborated with camp staff at Camp Lakey Gap - a camp for autistic children and adults - to provide swimming instruction and activities for the campers.

“The importance of these efforts cannot be overstated,” said John Blalock, director of Camp Lakey Gap. “Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children with autism. Learning how to navigate the water safely is of paramount importance, and if anybody knows swimming, it's the Y.”

Before working with the campers, YMCA aquatics staff completed a four-day training course focused on the learning style of children with autism.

“For many of the autistic individuals at camp, pool time is their favorite each day,” said China Hall, YMCA aquatics director. “It is a place where they get to express themselves freely. With the tools provided by the YMCA of the USA combined with the outstanding training provided by the leaders of Camp Lakey Gap, we were able to take swim time to a whole new level.”

The Y provided Safety Around Water classes three days a week during the summer months. All who participated learned swimming fundamentals such as floating, kicking, practicing blowing bubbles, and other building blocks for developing swimmers.

“The staff at Camp Lakey Gap are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with the instructors and are very hopeful that these collaborations can continue. There are already plans to duplicate the program in 2022,” said Blalock.