New Adventures for Sarah
Written by Tammy, Sarah's mother spring 2010
I am happy to share with you a little about my daughter, Sarah, and the impact Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD) has made on
our family. Sarah is nine years old and is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. She received the diagnosis at age 5, and soon after, we
started receiving services from DCBDD. Over the past four years, we have taken advantage of many forms of help DCBDD offers.
DCBDD has helped us in so many ways, but I would like to cover a few major areas of importance. They have allowed us to hire ABA therapists who
have come to our home and contributed to a successful transition to public school (start of kindergarten). They have also supported summer school
programs, which are so instrumental in maintaining structure for children like Sarah. They have also helped us hire nutritional consultants and
numerous OT's to manage diet/ sensory issues. Moreover, through DCBDD, Sarah regularly engages in structured social skills therapy - which
includes access to experienced counselors.
Additionally, DCBDD has allowed us to utilize important funding for therapy/ safety equipment for our home. This has improved Sarah's daily life
by giving her access to items that help regulate her sensory system and keep her focused. (The pedestal swing and fit-ball chair are two of our
favorites!) In addition, DCBDD has worked with us to fund great fitness activities that promote physical fitness/ socialization, such as the
AquaGym (more below).
Perhaps most importantly, DCBDD has provided a means for parent support/ education. I am so grateful to have attended several Asperger's
conferences in Ohio and neighboring states. I have met such experts as Tony Attwood and Temple Grandin. They provided invaluable insight
and current education that have helped me understand and treat our situation. (Temple even gave me personal advice on Sarah's sleep issues during
her book signing!) I do not know that I would have had the means to do all this without support. Through every step of the way, we have had
strong support and excellent guidance from our wonderful support administrator. She has made it so easy to access the funding/ services we
A recent program we "tested" was the AquaGym, and I would like to share Sarah's experience with it! The AquaGym is a unique underwater experience
for kids ages 8-16 who enjoy playing in the water. It is fun, a great form of exercise, and helps children develop primary scuba skills.
And, it always puts a smile on kids' faces!
Sessions take place in area community swimming pools. The scuba courses are typically set up in the shallow area of the pool (shallow enough that
kids can stand with their heads above water, but deep enough to swim underwater). Each child is dressed in an underwater wetsuit - complete with
mask, fins, and a scuba tank. Certified scuba instructors lead the children through a variety of obstacle courses and games. Under
supervision, children swim while balancing weighted eggs on spoons, shoot underwater baskets, throw torpedoes through ring targets, and search for
buried "treasure" (usually faux jewelry). Near the end of a session, each child is given a Sea Doo underwater scooter to help them navigate
through the courses. Themes are sometimes applied to add to the excitement - i.e. a pirate treasure hunt. Activities are generally
non-competitive and appropriate for all ages.
The owner/ instructor, Dave Smith, has a natural connection with children, and truly enjoys the sport of scuba diving. I would recommend this
class to typical and non-typical children. It is a great way to experience water sports and gain confidence by participating in a unique hobby/
As I mentioned before, Sarah is nine and is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She also struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder. She is
generally a sensory seeker and is very calmed by water. Wearing the wet suit gives her wonderful "deep-pressure" input. (Did you know it is
made of the same material as the pressure vests?) She loves the scuba activities/ challenges. My OT was so supportive of this activity when
I shared it with her. We definitely plan to sign up for more sessions! I hope you will, too.
My goals for Sarah are for her to become a confident, independent adolescent and transition to an adult life enriched with a successful career and
family. She loves animals and her goal is to work at the zoo, preferably "feeding the penguins." She has strong intellect, and I am
confident that the training/ programs we are taking part in now will ensure she can participate in higher-level education - ultimately achieving her
* Editors note: Sarah and her family work with a Family Support Administrator from DCBDD that have helped her identify providers for therapies, classes
and funding used for a variety of services as the family searches for the right combination of strategies to help Sarah. With creativity and ingenuity,
the family continues to seek new treatments and learn as much as possible in order to create optimal opportunities for her success at school, at home
and in the community.