Adapted recreation programs geared to children with developmental delays are now available through the City of Red Deer.
The groundwork began about a year ago when parents with the local chapter of the Alberta Autism Society approached the city for a swim program.
By January, four children were part of a six-week adapted aquatic class at G. H. Dawe Community Centre. This spring adapted classes are available for T-ball, basketball, parent and tot yoga, a pre-school play group, along with more swimming and summer camps.
Jackie Muddle said her son Chase, 6, has heightened senses and all the splashing and activity in a typical swim class was over stimulating.
“He couldn’t concentrate on learning how to swim when there was so much going around,” said Muddle, of Red Deer.
The adapted aquatic program at G. H. Dawe had fewer children, skills were broken down for easier learning, and a schedule using pictures helped to communicate with the young swimmers.
“A lot of the kids learn best visually. They don’t learn as well through hearing so having a visual schedule helps to communicate better, especially if the child is non-verbal. It’s comforting them too because they know what’s coming. It kind of helps to reduce the anxiety,” Muddle said.
Instructors understand the stress children may experience and how they may react and work with them to get them back on track, she said.
“These kids when they have sensory issues, it’s just overwhelming to put your face in the water, never mind blowing bubbles.”
Three swimming instructors at G. H. Dawe have been trained to teach adapted classes.
Come fall, the six-week swim class will be extended to 12 weeks.
“It’s great that they’re included in the programming because it’s such a life-saving skill,” said Denise Papineau, with the Dawe aquatic program.
Siblings were also able to participate in the adapted swim program which is open to all children. All the city’s recreation programs, including adapted, are inclusive.
“It’s all about inclusion. We want everyone to participate in it,” Papineau said.
Red Deer parent Jessica Schurman said her daughter Matea, 6, became more comfortable in the water, had fun, and made a new friend.
“She learned some new songs. And she started to dive under the water. That’s something she typically hadn’t done before. She learned the skills to go all the way under the water and open her eyes looking for different objects so that was really big for us,” Schurman said.
She said having an instructor and class that can adapt to the unique needs of children really helped her daughter.
“(Matea) likes to do her own thing. She likes to be on her own schedule and they were really, really accepting of her. There was no, ‘you have to get over here and you have to do this.’”
Both Matea’s mother and father joined her in the water, which is encouraged in adapted classes.
At the first adapted Little Chefs class, held on Saturday at G. H. Dawe, children, used dough, tomato sauce, cheese and other fixings to make pizza pinwheels.
Owen Woods, 5, of Red Deer, came prepared with his own chef hat.
His mother Danielle Woods said he is an eager kitchen helper.
“He’ll help with anything. But he definitely helps on the weekend when we do pancakes and waffles. That’s his favourite,” Woods said.
“He loves doing dishes so he already asked if can do the dishes here.”
Owen recently played in the adapted indoor soccer program with Red Deer City Soccer Association and will probably try more adapted programs, she said.
“We’ve tried non-adapted. It was a little bit harder because he does stand out quite a bit. It stresses out his brother, who does it with him, and the instructors. That’s why the adapted is nice. It’s less stress for everybody. And if he stands out, whatever, he gets to be who he is.”
Adapted classes are listed in the city’s Spring & Summer 2015 Activity Guide.