Opportunity SAILS in for special needs kids

19 February 2021

Royal Life Saving WA is determined to see all West Australians have an opportunity to learn vital swimming and water safety skills, despite the many obstacles of location, socio-economic status, disability or other factors that may get in their way. We are extremely proud to have partnered with the SAIL (Specialised Access and Inclusion Lessons) program at Kwinana Requatic over the past few years.

SAIL participant Sahara Pittaway during a swimming lesson with instructor Cecilia CappelutiThe SAIL Program is offered to people of all ages with an intellectual, physical or behavioural issue or impairment who need individual attention or reduced distraction from other swimmers. It teaches basic water safety skills for those with special needs, and those who might require extra help to gain confidence in the water.

76 children with special needs enjoyed 10 weeks of subsidised one-on-one swimming lessons cater to their individual abilities and requirements during term four of 2020 as part of SAIL program. More are taking part this term thanks to the support of Principal Community Partner BHP.

One of those taking part this term is 11-year-old Sahara Pittaway. Kwinana Recquatic Swim School Coordinator Emma Lavery says Sahar has been attending one-on-one classes through the SAIL program since February 2019. “Sahara has endured a lot of medical problems in the past, and still has days when she cannot come due to illness. But her mum has mentioned to us that since she started the program they’ve noticed a big difference in everything from her breathing, confidence, strength, ability and all over happiness.”Instructor Cecilia Cappeluti with SAIL participant Sahara Pittaway at the edge of the pool

City of Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams says this essential program enables students to receive the individual attention required to achieve their swimming goals. “The ability to swim and be safe in the water are vital skills and the City is committed to encouraging community participation in swimming lessons. Thanks to Royal Life Saving funding, the SAIL program is making a real difference in our local community – giving children in Kwinana the chance to learn basic water safety skills and gain extra confidence in the water,” said Mayor Adams.

Statistics show that of the children aged 0-14 years who drowned across Australia in the past decade, 15% had special needs. Recent statistics from the United States - looking specifically at autism - show that drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism, and they are 160% more likely to drown than other children. Royal Life Saving WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says it’s crucial to ensure these children have access to lessons that make swimming education viable for them. “A review of drowning data indicates limited water safety awareness combined with alarming low participation levels in swimming and water safety programs are contributing factors in the overrepresentation of children with special needs in drowning statistics.”

Local MLA for Baldivis, Reece Whitby, says the program is invaluable and could save lives. “Children with disability deserve to be able to participate in the full range of opportunities and fun that all children enjoy. This specialised program means that all children in our local community can get into the water and enjoy the West Australian way of life. Royal Life Saving WA and the SAIL program are having a huge impact on many kids lives for the better.”

Royal Life Saving WA encourages all WA families to ensure their children take part in swimming and water safety lessons. Those families whose children require special assistance to learn these vital skills are urged to contact Royal Life Saving, or their local swim school, to find out how we can help to make this possible.

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