One of the challenges of autism is the ability to connect with the senses, or sensory integration, as well as connecting on a social level. While learning to deal with this is the most challenging for toddlers and younger children, the teen years present new challenges in this area. When most teens are trying to find their place in social groups, teens with autism may still be trying to fit into their own bodies. One community in Jersey is helping them do both.
The Jersey Hammerheads is a swim team just for kids and teens with autism. By using swimming to help kids with sensory challenges, this team is dedicated to creating a team environment for those who often find it difficult to not only be in their own bodies, but also to be around others.
The water is a place where a person with autism can be completely in tune with the body and the environment in a sensory-supportive way. They feel the interaction on their skin and can better control their own movements, something that can be problematic at other times. This helps increase their confidence in their own bodies and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Integrating this into being a part of a team, depending on each other as a whole, builds their social skills at the same time according to Angel.co.
Michael McQuay, coach of the Hammerheads, prepares his team members not just for the Special Olympics, but also for life. By providing an activity in which autistic teens can excel together, the Jersey Hammerheads creates a win-win situation.