Signpost Inclusion Specialist Swimming Club, in Birmingham has been running since 2014 and works with children and families of those with special needs, including both physical and hidden disabilities.

The swimming club runs swimming lessons and monthly family swim sessions, working with approximately 70 children. The club also offers the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Rookie programme, to give children the opportunity to take part in varied lifesaving and rescue activities to give them the skills they need to be confident in the pool or the sea and enjoy water safely.

Thirteen children from Signpost Inclusion Specialist Swimming Club have attended the Rookie classes from across Birmingham, Solihull, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The children’s disabilities include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), physical disabilities, communication difficulties, Down Syndrome, learning difficulties, and/or high levels of anxiety.

The club has been able to adapt their teaching of the Rookie programme using Makaton, a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate, as well as using hand signals to ensure that all of the children who attend are able to learn about lifesaving.

So far, all thirteen children who have attended the Rookie programme have achieved Bronze stage one and two, and aim to continue to complete all of the Rookie stages within the next year before progressing to RLSS UK’s newly launched National Life Saving Academy (NLA).

Tracey Devaney from the swimming club explains that so far one child has specifically needed the adapted approach, however, feels that all of the children benefit from this approach as those who experience high levels of anxiety or low confidence may be unable to verbally communicate if faced with an emergency.

Tracey said, “Being able to offer a different approach has now given us the opportunity to offer progression within our swimming club. We have some swimmers that had to stop because they became good swimmers and there were no opportunities after that point.

“Once we were able to offer Rookie training we were able to develop our existing swimmers and give a reason to those who left to come back.”

One young person, Jacob, who had attended the Rookie sessions said it made him ‘feel proud’ that he was able to learn the skills involved and achieve his certificates.

A parent of another young person said, "The training itself has helped my child who is self-harming, has extremely low body image, low confidence and communication.

"The opportunity to take part in Rookie training is now building his confidence and giving him hope in himself to do something he loves!"

The swimming club strives to help young people with additional needs, help them to achieve, feel included and develop self-confidence in their abilities. The club hopes to be able to expand and reach out to more young people and recruit more instructors to give the young people at the club the opportunity to learn about lifesaving, as it proves so rewarding to everyone involved.

Find your local lifesaving club

RLSS UK are committed to the inclusion of as many people as possible in our lifesaving clubs and activities.  If you, or someone in your club has specific needs you’d like to discuss with us, then please get in touch with our friendly team, who can look into what adjustments could be put in place.

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