Autism Acceptance, Water Safety & Honoring Alijah
Have we mentioned lately how much we love to Celebrate?! In and out of Goldfish Swim School, we encourage our teams to celebrate progress, accomplishments and achievements, as well as diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance – that’s a lot of celebrating! With the help of prizes, ribbons, and a whole lotta high-fives, our team members are constantly celebrating kiddos in and out of the water. It’s kind of our thing!
As we swim through Autism Acceptance Month, we’re continuing to celebrate inclusivity and acceptance while promoting our very favorite thing – water safety! We’re proud to be joining the conversation to help spread the word about Autism Acceptance and the importance of ensuring every child has equal opportunities to do all things – including learning to be safer in and around the water! After all, the CDC reports that 1 in 36 children in the United States are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
We’re on a mission to spread awareness about water safety and drowning prevention, one swim lesson and one kiddo at a time. That means continued efforts and collaborations with local organizations, so that together, we can make waves for water safety and inclusivity!
Our friends at Goldfish Swim School – Winter Park in Florida are teaming up yet again with Alijah’s Awareness – for the third year in a row! This year, they will also be joined in their mission by the Goldfish Swim School – Gaithersburg team in Maryland! The swim scholarship program was founded by Allyson Alvarez and Eric Gonzalez, a couple whose daughter Alijah was diagnosed with Autism at 14 months old. The couple tragically lost their daughter in 2019 to a drowning accident. The accident occurred while the family was sleeping, rather than while they were swimming or by the pool. Allyson and Eric are now on a mission to spread the word about the importance of water safety and drowning prevention, even during non-swimming hours.
“We as a family weren’t actually at the pool or swimming at the time of Alijah’s accident. We were staying at a vacation rental in Florida, and she got out of the house while we were sleeping…we didn’t even know she knew how to unlock doors until after the accident. We woke up to find her in the pool. It’s so hard to share, but I think that’s an important thing for others to know as well… I know some people may think things like this won’t happen to me. I keep my eye on my children but things can happen at any time. Swim lessons are so important. ~Allyson, Alijahs Mommy
Allyson and Eric, with the help of Goldfish – Winter Park and Goldfish – Gaithersburg, are already making waves, in their community and beyond. Alijah’s Swimmers Scholarships program was formed with the mission of providing access to swim lessons – for all children. In its first year, Alijah’s Swimmer Scholarships were awarded to 10 local swimmers, and has since provided dozens of children with life-saving swim lessons. Not only does the scholarship help to provide access, it leads to children learning the life-saving skills they need to be safer in and around the water – exactly what Allyson and Eric are hoping for.
Elijah’s experience with water has changed tremendously since beginning swim lessons at Goldfish. The school is giving him the tools to navigate the water more safely. He is learning how to swim and gets better each lesson! – Sherica, mother of Elijah, an Alijah’s Swimmers Scholarship recipient.
Not only are Goldfish Swim School locations taking action in their communities, some of them are also taking action within their schools – offering a Golden Learners Program. While each and every one of our schools is always aiming to provide every swimmer a Golden Experience and ensure every child feels welcome at our school, schools offering the Golden Learners Program have crafted a program that offers a little extra assistance for those that may need it. The program provides teachers with additional training, tools and information about how they can best teach and support swimmers with special needs.
If you know of a deserving family in the Gaithersburg, MD or Winter Park, FL area, you can nominate them for an Alijah’s Swimmers Scholarship and help them get swimming towards a Safer Summer and beyond.
We hope that you’ll help us continue to honor Alijah’s memory and raise awareness as we enter the warmer months. Talk about water safety with those around you – children, family members and friends! Additionally, your family and those around you can follow these water safety tips from Board-Certified Pediatrician, Dr. Molly OShea, to help add an extra layer of protection: