Young Oscar Paine loves the water.
But only 2 years ago he was terrified. Oscar was so frightened he bore fingernail marks down his mother’s back, he screamed and cried and his mum, Mel Paine, could not put themselves through the trauma any more.
“There was no way he was going to put his head underwater,” Mrs Paine said.
“It ended up being too traumatic for all of us and I stopped going”.
Two years later Oscar started attending ODEEP and met aqua therapist Theresa Fieldus.
“I spent two years with Oscar and then all of a sudden it just all came together for him and he was able to enter mainstream swimming lessons,” Ms Fieldus said.
Ms Fieldus is the only Autism Swim instructor west of Sydney. Autism Swim is the only certifying body specific to autism and aquatics worldwide
“Aqua therapy isn’t swimming lessons as such, it’s about getting the kids used to the water, the noises, the splashing and being in a community setting,” she said.
“Oscar’s early learn to swim experience is one which is shared by many children who have disabilities or developmental delays and their parents or carers.
“Swimming lessons can be very overwhelming for these children who have different abilities. Swimming centres have many sensory triggers such as the water itself, children splashing and different smells and sounds. All these factors can combine to make a visit to the pool terrifying.
“ODEEP has been providing private Aqua Therapy classes for several years at the Aquatic Centre.
“Orange Aquatic Centre manager Iain Jones has been so integral in making this program a successful.
“He ensured the program was run alongside all the Learn 2 Swim classes, he was so supportive, welcoming and accommodating.
”The Aquatic Centre has been remarkable partners in the journey for children like Oscar.
“Iain has really embraced ODEEP and our Aqua Therapy program. He has been a leader in ensuring that we are part of the aquatic community and his positive reinforcement of our work has trickled down to all the staff. The partnership between ODEEP and the Aquatic Centre is changing lives”.
These days, Oscar is thriving at mainstream Learn 2 Swim classes with his teacher Tanya.
And mum Mel is so proud.
“All those years ago I would never ever have imagined we could do this,” Mrs Paine said.
“It is so lovely to now see him enjoy the water and I know he is well on his way to learning to be safe around the water”.