WILLIAMSBURG — A local program combining speech therapy and swim lessons builds children’s confidence both in and out of the water.
Speech & Swim was founded in 2019 by Beckwith Hastings, who said that the program was a perfect mix of her passion for and experience with speech-language pathology and swimming instruction.
The response was overwhelming, Hastings said, with families from as far as D.C. signing up for the program.
A registered Swim Whisperer with Swim Angelfish, Hastings uses Swim Angelfish methodology, which encompasses areas of focus and strategies for overcoming roadblocks for swimmers with Autism, anxiety, motor issues, physical and sensory delays, discomfort and trauma.
While 2020 came with its challenges, Speech & Swim implemented COVID-19 precautions through sanitation practices, temperature checks and reduced class sizes to continue meeting the needs of families.
This year, Hastings has increased the number of group sessions available for students with difficulties in the clarity of sounds.
“For 2022, I’m really focusing on those kids that have difficulties with the clarity of speech,” Hastings said. “At Speech & Swim, kids can work on their /s/, /r/, or /l/ sounds while making new friends and having fun in the water in a relaxed, non-academically focused atmosphere.”
Also new this year, by parent request, is a six-week block of traditional therapy sessions, which are separate from the three weeks of Speech & Swim.
“Some people think that because I’m combining speech and swimming instruction that a portion of the session is done outside of the water and a portion is done inside the water,” Hastings said. “But participants are in the water the entire time and those individualized goals are incorporated through engagement and robust learning throughout the swimming instruction.”
However, unlike the Speech & Swim sessions, the traditional speech therapy sessions will take place in an office setting and are 30 minutes each.
Speech therapy sessions are designed to help in areas of difficulty in communication, such as following directions, asking or answering questions, social language and literacy.
Additionally, the program is offering the new Social Swim group for children ages six and older with difficulties in following directions, expressive language, or social communication.
Hastings said that she is excited to bring the program back for another year.
“Being a part of someone’s communication journey is amazingly rewarding,” she said. “I love to see the substantial growth and breakthroughs a participant can make in one week of sessions. I love helping an 11-year-old boy finally kick that tough /r/ sound or helping a six-year-old girl go to the bottom to retrieve rings with her friends. I love waiting in the deep end of the pool for safety and comfort to a child going off the diving board for the first time.”
Hastings added that she also finds comfort in knowing that she is providing life-saving skills to children who may have the tendency to elope and are drawn to the water.
Speech and swim skills are highly individualized to the needs of the participant, Hastings said. Based on their current comfort level in the water, students will learn skills including becoming confident in the water, going underwater, swimming across the pool, swimming where they cannot stand, endurance and stroke technique.
Hastings said that a majority of her participants are found through word of mouth, and while many are from Williamsburg or Yorktown, families come from all over.
This year’s summer session dates are June 13-16, June 28-July 1 and July 12-15, and will take place at Windsor Great Park Recreation Association, 701 Balthrope Road in Newport News.
Traditional speech therapy sessions will take place Mondays June 27 – Aug. 8 at the Windsor Great Park Recreation Clubhouse.
For more information about Speech & Swim, visit its website.