MarineCorps Air Station Cherry Point --
The sound of laughter and excitement fill the air in the small classroom near the combat pool as parents and children take up seats surrounding the safety and rules instructor for their pre swim meeting.
The members of the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, and their siblings are excited and ready for their second of four swim classes.
Then, the children’s laughter erupts as they enter the water, as the instructors begin teaching them the basic swimming techniques they will need.
This was the scene during a swimming lesson created especially for special-needs children at Cherry Point’s combat pool, Feb. 20.
The children are members of the EFMP, a Marine Corpswide organization for dependents with special needs.
Children that participate in the EFMP’s swim lessons range from 2 to 12 years of age.
Karen E. Dobson, co-founder of the Cherry Point Autism group, said she got the idea for the swim lessons when her second oldest son, an EFMP member, could no longer participate in the regular classes held but still wanted to take lessons.
Dobson brought the idea to Terri Fisher, the aquatics director for Cherry Point. Soon, the children had their first class.
Fisher said the classes teach the same movements and safety rules as a standard class. They do, however, adjust the speed of the classes for the special needs of the children.
“Each child has their own special needs due to their individual situations,” said Dobson.
Due to these factors, the children need to be organized into different groups for the lessons.
“The groups are broken up by age and swim abilities,” said Fisher. “Our first session was last month, and our main focus was to determine the children’s different ability groups.”
Dobson said there are five groups, and each group has one instructor, one lifeguard, and no more than five students.
“On average, a children’s swim class has a child to life guard ratio of 25-1, this class has a ratio of 6-1 due to the children and their special needs,” said Fisher.
Fisher said the aquatics staff has shown its dedication in making the program work by coming in an hour and a half early for the class to support the children.