Special swim lessons at South Jersey school for autism

MT. LAUREL, N.J. (WPVI) -- Learning how to swim and be safe around water can be a lifesaver for kids and swimming is a fun way for them to get and stay fit.

Unfortunately, thousands of kids die every year from drowning and kids with autism may be especially at risk, so the YMCA has developed a program to help keep kids with special needs safe.

And the YMCA of Burlington County has brought it to the Bancroft School in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey to help students with autism there be safe.

EMBED More News Videos

SWAM, which stands for "swimming with autism" as reported during during Action News at 4 on June 3, 2019.

Using his device, 10-year-old Gonzolo tells us how swimming makes him feel. His teacher at the Bancroft School says he and his classmates have come a long way.

"Huge improvement with all of them, all the kids," said Valerie Carmack.

The principal of the school for students with autism and other intellectual disabilities says the swimming program started a year ago, spearheaded by parents.

The goal is recreation, but more importantly, teaching safety.

"Blowing bubbles, immersion, or floating on their back," says swimming teacher Sylvie Moran.

EMBED More News Videos

YMCA launching program to help teach kids water safety - Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on May 14, 2019.

It's clear from the smiles on their faces, it's a lesson they like to learn.

"He just lights up," says Carmack, referring to Gonzolo.

The YMCA offers this program at several different facilities, with instructors all trained to teach kids with special needs, meeting them at their level and working with them, to slowly build their skills.

Bancroft says swimming is also a great way to keep kids active and in shape, which can be a challenge with kids on the autism spectrum.

The National Autism Association has a list of YMCA's offering swim lessons for special needs: CLICK HERE.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.