Reggie Jackman first started swimming with local baby swim school Water Babies when he was just 17 weeks old, now a rambunctious and affectionate four-year-old, he loves nothing more than splashing around in the pool with his mum, Bianca.
For the mother and son, time in the pool at Nuffield Health provides some much-needed respite from the responsibilities of home, where they both support Bianca’s husband and Reggie’s dad, who lives with neurodegenerative disease, primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
When Reggie was very recently diagnosed with autism, Bianca spent time reflecting on the value that their weekly swimming lesson with Water Babies has on the family unit.
“It’s actually partly down to our regular lesson with Water Babies that I was able to recognise that Reggie may have additional needs – he’s always so calm in the water and really excels in it,” explained Bianca.
“It’s where he can be free. Once he could stand in the pool, that was it, he just wanted to run around and be independent. It was around this time that Reggie’s nursery pointed out his need for extra support, so we explored that with his nursery and from there he was diagnosed. He’s a wonderfully caring little boy – he supports me in the daily care for his dad – so to see him come into his own, both in and out of the pool, is wonderful for us.”
In a bid to support Reggie to get the most out of his weekly lesson and feel comfortable with his surroundings, Water Babies have put some special processes in place – and are keen to share how well Reggie is doing in the pool.
“Reggie’s lovely teacher, Katy, could see how much he was struggling to keep up with the other children – he has good days and bad days, but on a bad day we can see his self-confidence ebbing away,” said Bianca.
“So, she welcomed us to the pool 15 minutes earlier than everyone else, every week, so we could get some one-on-one time with her. She tends to do a mini-introductory lesson to what we’re about to learn with the rest of the class, so Reggie is prepared for what’s going to happen. It means he knows what’s coming next – for someone with autism, this is extremely reassuring.
"Katy even goes as far as to email me before the lesson a picture board of what she’s going to be running through, so I can discuss that with Reggie before we get to the pool. Reggie is then already preparing in his mind what can be expected of those lessons and, for autistic children, that routine and structure is really important.
“Ever since Katy has been doing this for us, he’s like a different child. He engages more in the activities and is willing to try new things. Before it would have been an outright no! The main thing is that he’s having fun. I would even say that he’s at his happiest in the pool, and I really must thank Katy and the wonderful Water Babies team for that!” added Bianca.
For Tamsin Brewis, who owns Water Babies Bucks and Beds, the commitment and kindness that Katy has shown to Reggie makes her proud of the difference her swim school continues to make for children living locally, almost 20 years since launching in 2004.
“Reggie is a marvellous little boy and truly deserves the extra support that Katy has been giving him,” said Tamsin. “At Water Babies, we’re committed to making sure every little one that swims with us gains the confidence they need to swim safely but, more importantly, have fun. Reggie has come on leaps and bounds since Katy has started preparing him ahead of his lessons – I love hearing how he’s been getting on. It’s thanks to parents like Bianca, who trust in the bond that time in the pool gives to families, that we’re able to keep on doing what we do – enriching children to learn for life.”
For more information about Water Babies Bucks & Beds, visit here.