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Making waves: Special needs students swim toward independence at Si View pool

Mount Si junior Sara Aldrich and Susan Pearson, students at the Mount Si Transitional Learning Center, take a break from morning activities at the Si View pool. Swimming visits  help students broaden their horizons. - Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Mount Si junior Sara Aldrich and Susan Pearson, students at the Mount Si Transitional Learning Center, take a break from morning activities at the Si View pool. Swimming visits help students broaden their horizons.
— image credit: Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Every Friday, the Si View Community Center pool fills with teens and young adults who swim, splash and have the time of their lives.

These aren’t your typical swimming lessons. The Snoqualmie Valley School District teamed up with Si View Community Center this year to help special needs students in the district build new skills and leisure activities at the pool. It’s a precursor for the time when these students are on their own in society.

“A student of ours was coming back to us from another placement,” said Nancy Meeks, the school district’s special education director. “One of the things he enjoyed doing was swimming.”

Pool days make a positive impact on special-needs students. School staff have found that students communicate more when they’re in the water, and experience more group activity compared with a traditional classroom.

With a limit of 18 students in the pool, Mount Si High School students attend every Friday while students from Chief Kanim and Twin Falls Middle School attend every other week.

Also taking part are students from the district’s Transitional Learning Center, who are 18 to 21 years old.

Occupational therapist Eric Lagace and therapist assistant Barb Beattie help students explore a different environment and build their motor skills.

“The kids really love the program. They all have improved their swimming and water safety,” said Lagace.

The pool day also reinforces skills such as how to act in a public place and how to change your clothes in public — things that these students don’t have many opportunities to do in the school environment, Meeks added.

Very thankful for Si View Park’s willingness to collaborate with the district, Meeks and Lagace said it is important for Valley special needs students who have more significant disabilities to constantly explore new options.

“We see the kids so differently in these environments,” Meeks said. “It’s a beautiful way to be able to work on skills that we would not see in a classroom.”

Valley schools are now seeking to team up with Camp Waskowitz, a North Bend leadership camp run by the Highline School District, to provide new social environments.

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