Marianne Flanagan watches as her son laughs and plays in the pool.
But Charlie Flanagan, 7, who has autism, wasnâ€™t always this comfortable around water.
â€œWhen we first came, we were pulling him into the water,â€ Marianne Flanagan said. â€œNow he jumps right in.â€
Flanagan credits her sonâ€™s transformation to Swim Whisperers, a program developed by Angelfish Therapy to teach children with autism and sensory motor disabilities the skills to be safe in and near water.
â€œWater seems to calm him,â€ Flanagan said, â€œand heâ€™s learning to take direction.â€
Children with these issues tend to have either no fear of water â€” and therefore, no awareness of the inherent dangers, or are petrified of it. Statistics show drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism.
Jessie Lippi, 27, of New Milford, is one of the programâ€™s swim instructors. She is certified and trained by the Red Cross and Angelfish. Her focus is safety, using the Swim Whisperersâ€™ â€œ14 roadblocks to swimming,â€ which include making a child comfortable going underwater, how to get out of the water and basic swimming strokes.