Goldfish instructors will be the first to admit that hitting that first swimming milestone isn’t always easy. No one ever just jumps in the pool and takes off; it requires an incredible mix of determination, strength and patience. Dakota, a swimmer at Goldfish Grand Rapids, embodies just that.

undefinedBefore Dakota arrived at his first lesson, his mother sat down with Will Alberts, the owner of Goldfish Grand Rapids to talk about some of the challenges facing her son. You see, Dakota lives with cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture. Dakota has always loved the water, but cerebral palsy had always created some extra barriers for him learning how to swim.

The team at Goldfish Grand Rapids quickly got to work to customize a Beginner-level program that would work in concert with his ongoing physical therapy out of the water. His muscle movement was not great at first, so it took some time for him to stay afloat on his own. After some observation, Will noticed that it was easier for him to float on his back, so they decided to work on his backstroke first.[1]

When working with our swimmers, we take an incremental approach to teaching new strokes. It was no different with Dakota:

  1. He first learned how to hold his breath
  2. He then learned how to use a floating barbell
  3. We then took the barbell away
  4. Eventually, he learned to hold himself on the surface while doing backstroke

As Will continued to work with Dakota, he realized that Dakota responded very well to challenges and incentives, so as they worked towards goals Will introduced different motivational tactics: ribbons, cannon balls, etc. To make the prize just a little sweeter, instructors promised they’d post a video of him swimming on the Goldfish Grand Rapids Facebook page. Here’s a video of Dakota not only swimming across the pool once, but multiple times!

Dakota’s confidence has gone through the roof! His next conquest is the pulling paddle (what we call the doggie paddle at Goldfish), which Will hopes will lead to the freestyle and his ability perform rollover breaths.

“Dakota cracks the staff up and walks in like he owns the place, ” Will said. “He loves the water because it doesn’t give him as many physical limitations. Dakota’s progress from Beginner to Glider exceeded all of our expectations. His accomplishments in the water have had a measurable impact on his quality of life, and for that, we’re thankful.”

No matter the mental or physical challenges your child may face, we want to make sure their experience in the water is Golden. We encourage you to talk to us about how we can help.

Find a Goldfish Swim School near you, and don’t hesitate to call us with any questions.

[1] This was a bit of a departure from the typical curriculum for children without disabilities. The doggie paddle and freestyle are typically the first techniques mastered.