“As a mother of a special needs child, I am constantly worried about his well-being. One of my biggest struggles is how people perceive him and dismiss him without even trying to understand his needs. I am an early childhood educator, so I know how important it is to enrich the lives of little ones with activities, friendships, and connections within their community. I was struggling to find this for my own child. He is constantly judged by other parents, left out of activities, and other children often lose patience with him. Typically, we just turn away and go on to
the next thing.
I came to the YWCA after trying martial arts, team sports, and other child-centric activities. I’d heard that they offered swim lessons at a reasonable time for working parents and I thought that this might be it – the thing that would help my son, Landon. I called and registered and soon we were on our way. Valinda, the instructor, met us at the pool and I watched nervously from the viewing room as he began his first-class. Having a child with special needs is not for the faint at heart and unfortunately, everything I was worried about happened on that first day – I was mortified to see that he didn’t respond like the other kids and was struggling to keep still and follow instructions. After a couple of group lessons, Valinda approached me and with a sinking heart, I anticipated hearing her ask us to leave the class. Instead, she very kindly recommended individual lessons. She was determined to make swimming accessible to my son. I don’t find that type of determination at most places, so Valinda’s willingness and care were refreshing.
We started individual lessons shortly afterward and on the first day, I immediately saw the difference it made. Valinda knew how to connect with him and had endless patience. He was actually learning to swim! As Landon started getting more excited about swimming, I saw changes in his entire demeanor. His self-esteem and confidence grew in leaps and bounds – he felt that he too could do what he saw the other children doing.
We had to miss swim lessons during the 2020 closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as soon as the YWCA re-opened, Landon couldn’t wait to get back in the pool. Yes, he may need a little more attention and a little more time than others, but thanks to his swim lessons, he’s learned the importance of learning things one step at a time and feels he can accomplish just about anything! As a mom, I’m incredibly proud of my son. I know that he is safe around water, and I
see that he has grown so much from this experience at the YWCA.”
Misti Chastain, Mom
The YWCA of Asheville has been making swimming accessible to everyone for over a century. Our Aquatics program is vested in offering accessibility, from integrating swim lessons in the 1950s and providing swim lessons for children like Landon, to offering scholarships, lessons for all children in our Early Learning Program, and by partnering with schools and community programs.
YWCA is on a mission. For 114 years, we have been at the forefront of movements for social justice, freedom, and equality. Love our work?