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Autism Friendly Swimming Sessions at Les Quennevais

A new autism-friendly swimming session has been launched at Les Quennevais Sports Centre from Sunday 3rd June from 2pm till 3pm and will continue on the first Sunday of each month.  The sessions are open to everyone and normal entry fees will apply (free for Active card holders) but regular customers will see a few changes for the hour session.
Autism _Swim _Graphic
Autism Jersey estimate that there are 1,000 people living in Jersey with autism.  Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects the way a person communicates with other people and relates to the world around them. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently and often find the world around them overwhelming. This means that taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life can be more challenging.  
Going to a swimming pool can be quite difficult for autistic people and others with sensory differences so this will provide an environment conducive to their needs.  Families will also be able to prepare for their visit to the pool by downloading a 'social story' from gov.je.  A social story is a short description of a situation, event or activity, which includes specific information about what to expect. Social stories are a helpful way of helping autistic people to develop greater social understanding.

The idea was put to the centre by Nikki Holmes, Community Short Breaks Development Officer at Health and Social Services Child Development and Therapy Centre, as part of her work to create more opportunities for children with disabilities or complex or enduring health needs. 
Les Quennevais is already a very inclusive sports facility and were enthusiastic about the idea of the autism-friendly swimming sessions.  
Rachel Sawyer, Centre Manager at Les Quennevais engaged the help of lifeguard Adam Hewitt who has a good understanding of autism.  Adam suggested many of the changes that people will see including:
Lights and music will be turned off 
Spas and bubble beds will be turned off
The viewing balcony will be closed
Hand dryers in toilets and hairdryers in wet changing rooms will be turned off (hairdryers will be available in other areas)
Televisions at Reception will be turned off
Public announcements will only be made if absolutely necessary
Parent Ellie Sharples said "As a family with a child of additional sensory needs we welcome the opportunity to have time at Les Quennevais where the environment is adapted to improve our son's experience and enjoyment. I'd love to see other family entertainment venues adopt this approach."
Active  are delighted to help families with autistic children in this way and will of course still welcome the public.
Written by at 11:00

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