Friday, July 10, 2009

Ballet in the water

Patty Daly contacted me to tell me about a sport that welcomes children with disabilities: synchronized swimming.

Patty’s daughter Lauren, 18, has cerebral palsy and has been doing “synchro” since she was 10. Her duet partner – Nicole Flynn, 16, has Down syndrome, and the pair compete in Ontario and nationally (see photo).

The sport has had numerous benefits for Lauren “and I would like to get the word out to other families so they’re aware this opportunity exists,” Patty says.

Synchro Canada says clubs across the country have programs for athletes with disabilities – many integrated into regular programs. Our next issue of BLOOM will include a role model column with Lauren and Nicole. Here’s what Patty has to say:

“Synchro has given Lauren a sport that she’s been able to excel at, the opportunity to swim with peers, confidence to swim in front of an audience and most importantly, she sees the rewards of doing therapy.

Before the girls head into the water, they do land drill, which includes stretching and strength-building. It’s the same in essence as what Lauren would do in therapy, but it isn’t labeled “therapy.” All of the able-bodied athletes do it with them, so they aren’t singled out as a result of their disability.

When Lauren has her appointments at Bloorview, they’re always amazed that someone with her disability is as flexible as she is and is able to do the splits. I have tried to get the word to these doctors that this is all a result of synchro.

Synchro has given Lauren confidence in school as well and has taught her how to manage her time (if she didn't get her homework done, she wasn't able to go to synchro). She’s successfully completed her training as a lifeguard and spent the last two summers working at an overnight camp. She’s also a member of her high school swimming team, advancing to the provincial championships every year.

This coming year, Lauren and Nicole (her duet partner) are hoping that they might have the opportunity to swim in Japan!

Every synchro club is encouraged to include swimmers with physical and cognitive disabilities. In the water, disabilities are not as pronounced. The coaches work with each child to maximize their ability.

I think there are other parents out there who have children who could greatly benefit from synchro if they only knew about it. ”

(note: Synchro Canada’s Aquasquirt program is open to boys and girls)