The YMCA, now officially called "The Y," has long used the tagline "You Belong at the Y." If you're a person with autism (or just love one!), this is truer now than ever before. If you haven't been to the Y lately, you may find it tough to recognize from years past: where once it was a haven for boys and men, it's now a community center that welcomes families and individuals from every walk of life.
Take a gander at some of these awesome programs developed across the United States for kids and families living with autism (the quotes are from each Y's respective website):
- New Jersey: "The YMCA will partner with the Salem County Center for Autism to implement an inclusion swimming program. The Super Swimmers, as the program is called, is for children with autism, ages 5-14, and is designed to engage them with other children while they learn general pool safety and beginner swimming. This inclusion program will run for six week sessions throughout the year."
- Illinois: "AutiSwim Camp was formed in 2010, with hopes of creating a safe and exclusive environment for teaching swimming skills and safety. What exactly is AutiSwim? Autiswim Camp is a 7 week structured program, for children with Autism with the parent or caregiver assisting in the water. The focus is pool safety, developing swim skills, and being confident in or around water using visual and sensory aids. Over 30 children with special needs and their families have utilized the program in the past three years. The camp currently serves students who have a diagnosis or suspected diagnosis of autism and welcomes all special needs families."
- Massachusetts: "The West Roxbury's Y's "Keeping Active Program [for kids with autism]," as it is called, happens Saturdays, with an open gym from 9-11 a.m. and Sundays, with open swim from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Caregivers stay with the kids and no one has to be a member of the Y. A drop-in fee is $5."
What's your local Y doing? Be sure to ask. And if the answer is "nothing," consider stepping up to the plate as that parent who took the initiate to get something started.
Image Courtesy of the Y of the USA