C., 14: “Swimming was good. I can swim better now. Floating was hard, but I got good at the end. It was fun!”
A., 13: “When I took regular swim classes, I didn’t learn anything. The water was cold and deep and the other kids learned to swim faster than me. When I did swim classes with Alix and Eryn, it was better. It wasn’t loud and the pool was nice. I learned to swim with them and feel more comfortable in the water. I could even hold my breath longer than anyone in my family now! My parents were surprised that I can swim better and I’m not even afraid to go to the deep end anymore. Thank you!”
J., 17: "See I like swimming in the water. I learned good safety. I felt excited because I can swim better."
A., 7: “Swim class with Eryn was so much fun! I liked the toys and getting to go under water to find them. The hot tub was good too! Some parts were scary, like when I had to learn to float or when I had to go in the deeper water, but I learned to do it and now I’m not scared all the time.”
"The program is one of its kind and I am thankful our community is going to benefit from this. The instructors are patient, kind and willing to work diligently keeping your child's individual needs and pace in mind! Highly recommend the @JAAR program!" - Meenakshi Kathuria
"This program is AMAZING Alix is the best! She is so amazing with our neurodivergent kiddos. She gets it." - Melanie Huskey-Griffin
"Loved this program! Working with our 17-year-old on water safety skills is critical, and they made great progress within a few sessions!” – Sara Hague
"I love working at JAAR! Alix is a great director and I feel blessed to work with the kids she has introduced me to. This has been a wonderful learning experience for me and I can’t wait to see what else JAAR accomplished in the future!" – Claire Ridgeway
In August 2023, after almost two years of no success accessing appropriate swim lessons for my autistic 5-year-old son, I saw an ad for JAAR on Facebook and reached out immediately to share more about my son and my longing for him to learn to swim. As a life-long swimmer, I didn’t only want my son to be safe around water, I wanted him to learn to swim, and be able to garner the joy and health benefits swimming has to offer throughout his life.
Alix, JAAR’s Executive Director and Head Instructor, responded quickly to my message indicating she would love to welcome my son, Benny, into the JAAR program. The program offered some flexibility in days and times to attend twice-a-week swim lessons. We had the earliest slot from 4:20-4:50 PM on Monday and Thursdays. Our direct support worker brought Benny to and from lessons on many of the days. Alix’s training in accessible education and her passion for coaching kids with disabilities were obvious from the start. She and my son literally jumped right in—Alix met Benny where he was each day and balanced Benny’s favorite pool movements (e.g., going under water) with new water safety skills like back float and moving himself along the wall of the pool. Alix was a quick learner of Benny’s unique modes of communication and was able to honor his autonomy while also challenging him to grow.
The JAAR program employs a novel instructional system that scaffolds kids’ learning of basic water comfort and safety skills to stroke techniques. The number of skills a kid acquires through the six-week program varies by kid and their starting skillset, but progress is consistent across all kids and Alix has the data to prove it. My son mastered 25 new skills in JAAR (16 skills is the average across their first 20 students)! This little program, which is free to the families it serves, is doing everything in its power to fill a giant gap in the provision of appropriate life-saving swim services for kids with disabilities in the Eugene/Springfield area. There are many families like ours in this community who were not receiving equitable services until JAAR came along. I highly recommend the program and, for those with resources, to support the program financially so JAAR can continue to create a more inclusive community.