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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks Helping Kids Learn to Swim

April 23, 2015

ABC News recently posted an AP article that follows a young woman on the autism spectrum's journey to learn to swim thanks in part to a grant from Autism Speaks. Learn more about our Swimming & Water Safety Scholarship Fund here

This week, Autism Speaks announced the 15 recipients of the second quarter swimming grants! Find a program near you here!

Read an exerpt from the article below and go to to read the full story

"Ian, Ian, Ian," squeals 8-year-old Anna as she spots her friend across a pool in the South Bronx. She splashes with excitement until he gingerly joins her in the water.

Five years ago, Anna wouldn't even utter "Mama."

Anna and Ian, 7, are on the autism spectrum. Among their challenges is learning how to swim. With 1 in 68 American children falling on the spectrum, many with a penchant for wandering near water, parents and advocates believe swim safety is crucial.

That's why the nonprofit Autism Speaks began a year ago to help swim programs around the country provide more personal attention, patience and specialized techniques often required for kids with special needs like those of Anna and Ian.

Among the recipients of $275,000 in grants issued the first year is Agnes Davis, president of swim, swim, swim I SAY. She's a kindly kid whisperer in a swim cap who makes special cupcakes for her charges as she gently encourages them to master lifesaving skills.

"Agnes is a godsend," said Anna's dad, Maurice Shalah of Manhattan. "We tried so many different programs since she was about 2 years old and she never learned to swim until we came here. This program, after two sessions, she was swimming."

Among Anna's delays is speech apraxia, he said as he watched her in the pool during a recent lesson on the campus of Hostos Community College. "This requires less of her to talk than other activities and she can just enjoy. She swallows half the pool because she's so happy."

Davis' program is one of 65 to receive Autism Speaks funding for families with financial need.

Watch a compilation of home videos we received from families who have benefitted from the Autism Speaks Swimming and Water Safety Grants below.



Autism Speaks also offers swimming grants to organizations that provide swimming and water safety lessons to award scholarships to financially disadvantaged individuals with autism. The grants are provided on a quarterly basis; the next deadline is May 20. (Important Note: Individuals on the autism spectrum and their families may not apply for the program. However, Autism Speaks encourages families to contact local organizations providing swimming lessons and ask them to submit an application.)