Children with special abilities learn to swim

ORLANDO, Fla. — Drowning is the primary cause of death for children aged one to four in Florida. Children with autism are significantly more at risk.


Baby Otter Swim School and West Gate Resorts are working to change that by providing water safety education to children with special needs.

Diego is one of those trainees. With a personality that was made to entertain, the 10-year-old loves to sing, dance, and swim.

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However, his love for the water didn’t come without worry for his mother, Malena Cuellar.

“Sometimes he doesn’t realize the danger,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar wanted Diego to go through this program so he could have the skills to navigate through living in Central Florida.

“There’s a lot of lakes, pools, it’s hot, kids want to be in the water,” Cuellar said. “I wanted him to learn to swim to protect himself.”

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Moms like her are why the Baby Otter Swim School partnered with West Gate Resorts to host “Splash for the Spectrum.”

“Those children are the forgotten children,” Mindy York, the President of Baby Otter Swim School, said. “You just have to learn how to deal with them. Learn their exceptionalities and adapt.”

Children on the autism spectrum are taught basic swimming skills and what to do if they accidentally end up in the water.

“The child learns how to put their face in the water, the proper way to kick, learns to swim to steps, learns to swim to the wall, and on the last day, learns if they fall in to turn, kick, reach,” Marlene Bloom, the Vice President of Baby Otter Swim School explained.

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The five-day program is offered to babies as young as eight months old up to senior citizens. It’s given Cuellar the confidence to book summer family vacations she normally wouldn’t, like a cruise and a trip to Puerto Rico.

“I feel more comfortable that he knows how to swim,” Cuellar said.

More information about Baby Otter Swim School can be found online here, or by calling 1-888-794-6543.

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