YOU recently spoke to Nabilah Diedericks, founder and swim instructor at Finz Aquatic – a Cape Town-based swim school that specialises in disability therapy.
Nabilah (28), who’s from Lansdown, started Finz Aquatic in 2015. She was diagnosed with borderline autism when she was in Grade 2.
While she had the assistance of an occupational therapist who helped her through developmental challenges, Nabilah wants to help others who don’t have that luxury. The purpose of her swim school is to dispel the stigma that comes with raising a differently abled child.
“A mistake most parents make is to compare their children with their peers or to hide their child from society or the community,” Nabilah revealed.
More than anything Finz Aquatic seeks to “create opportunities for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and various special needs,” according to the qualified business sports manager.
This is why she finds it important for parents to create awareness as opposed to shying away from openly having conversations about their differently abled little ones.
“It shouldn’t be something parents hide from the public. If anything, they need to create awareness and form communication enablers to break the stigma.”
When she was 13 years old, Nabilah had a swim instructor who never lost hope in seeing her realise her full potential, which is what she hopes to achieve with all the kids that come to her swim school.
“I was told I’d never amount to anything but had it not been with the assistance of a motivated swim instructor and a will to prosper I might not have . . . which is what I want to pass on to the children that need a will to prosper.
“In a community like Grassy Park there aren’t many water-safety facilities and if there are, their services are often at exorbitant rates. Water safety is essential, differently abled or not,” she says.
Nabilah has five water-safety tips for parents of little ones with special needs.
1. Introduce them to water while they’re young
Water safety begins at home. Always try to introduce your little one to the water from as young as six months old. That way, they familiarise themselves more quickly with being in the water.
2. Warm water works wonders
Try to get your little one swimming in a heated pool first. This will help relax their muscles.
3. Prioritise safe words in the water
Vocalise – children with ASD often have difficulty vocalising themselves. Creating safe words for them to use while in the water helps them to communicate more effectively than if they just cried out.
4. Teach them to keep calm
In the event that your little one starts panicking, remind them of the importance of rolling over so they can remain in a buoyancy position and try to reach for the nearest wall if in a pool.
5. Trust your instructor
When you take your child to a swimming school for the first time try your best to trust the qualified instructor.
Removing your child from the school after a day or two because they’ve started crying only leaves an impression of a loss of faith to the child. Allow them to slowly start taking part in the classes and above all trust your child.