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ASPartOfMe
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01 Jul 2017, 3:44 am

New Documentary Follows Team of Autistic Swimmers

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This award-winning film, released this week, premieres on July 7 in New York City and will air on PBS on October 2 as part of the series POV.

Can you describe the community of the Jersey Hammerheads swim team?
It’s a group of kids who range in age from eight to—the oldest one was 22 at the time. The majority of kids on the team have never been on a competitive swim team before. They were all on the autism spectrum and some of them had multiple disabilities. Unfortunately, they just hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in community sports before. So this was a really special chance for the kids as well as for their families. What I noticed almost right away was the fantastic sense of camaraderie that they had developed and the great relationships that were forming between the kids and the families who were coming together on this team. Sports are very important in our country, and it’s important not just because of the health benefits or the fitness benefits, but also for the social benefits. And certainly in the suburbs, where families are raising kids, sports are an important part of the social life of a community. These are families who wouldn’t have access to these things, to the support and the social aspect of participating in community life. It was wonderful to see it happen with this team, with people who had never experienced this before.

How is coaching the Jersey Hammerheads different from coaching other teams?
Coach Mike [McQuay] says coaching a special needs team versus a regular swim team is night and day. I have to hand it to him because he has incredible flexibility and patience and willingness to do what it takes with each of the kids on the team. Each of them needs different techniques to teach them. For example, there’s a moment in the film where he’s coaching Mikey, his son, and he says, “Be the flying squirrel.” He was trying to get Mikey to spread out when he dives off the block. He’s using an animal term, knowing that Mikey responds to a comparison to an animal. And there’s another moment in the film when you see Coach Mike “negotiating” with Kelvin. Kelvin doesn’t want to get in the water and Coach Mike says, “Just try for me. How about you do this… how about this.” And he keeps negotiating and Kelvin keeps saying, “No, no, I don’t want to do it.” But Coach Mike doesn’t give up, and eventually, Kelvin dives in the water; he does what Coach Mike wanted him to.

How has the team itself changed the children who participate? What traits do they acquire as a result of being on the team?
I think one of the great things about this film is the scenes where you can see the camaraderie or the interaction between the kids. We see one of them, Robbie, emerge as a leader. I think one of the beautiful parts of this film is the growth of this team.

Have you been in touch with the athletes on the team?
Yes, and I love to stay in touch with them. They come to screenings, which is really fantastic. They are all still swimming. The main guys in the film, Kelvin, Mikey, and Robbie, are not all still swimming on the Jersey Hammerheads. Mikey is still on the team. Kelvin is on a different team, and Robbie moved, so he is swimming on a different team as well. But they are all doing well, and I stay in touch with them.


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How can Autism be trendy and a popular insult at the same time?

Recovering from tongue cancer and suspected Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (Ear Shingles), somewhat verbal.
Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity


ASPartOfMe
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02 Oct 2017, 5:25 pm

It airs on PBS 10 PM tonight


_________________
How can Autism be trendy and a popular insult at the same time?

Recovering from tongue cancer and suspected Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (Ear Shingles), somewhat verbal.
Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity