Cape Town – A woman who suffered from autism as a child has opened a swimming school for children with autism and other special needs in Grassy Park.
Nabilah Diedericks said children with disabilities experienced setbacks in their development. However, swimming could be a way to build their confidence.
Diedericks had borderline autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while growing up, which allowed her to experience the challenges that a child with disabilities had to experience on a daily basis.
“I understood that there was a huge gap in childhood development for children with various special needs and this comes with a lack of opportunities. I believe that sports can change lives and open up doors. I would not be where I am today if were not for sports,” she said.
Diedericks said she noticed that people had little patience with individuals who required more attention, and there was a lack of knowledge about children with special needs.
It is easy to draw the wrong conclusions when a child is throwing a tantrum or knocking their head against a wall.
“Some of us don’t often understand the difference between ASD, special needs and a naughty child. Learning to read behaviour and language of a toddler is easy – all you have to do is see their world a little more closely and think before trying to fix the situation immediately,” she said.
Finz Aquatics and Fitness Development swimming school was opened in 2015.
Diedericks said: “When I had borderline ASD, it helped me understand my students attending my swim school. Swimming allows autistic and special needed kids to feel relaxed and it forms a sense of independence.”
Swimming improves various motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, cognitive development, social skills and listening skills.
Diedericks said that the willingness for pursuing a sport for a child with a disability has to come from the parents’ side, and then from the child as well.