Like many autistic children, Ethan John loves the water — and that’s both a good and bad thing.If there’s water around, the 7-year-old will head right to it, even if there’s nobody watching him.
“Everything else is so chaotic for him, but being in a pool or the ocean relaxes him,” says his mother, Koren McKenzie-John, of Tamarac. “We can’t take our eyes off of him for a second.
“Because of children like Ethan, water safety instruction is crucial in South Florida. And, in fact, experts say South Florida offers the most-advanced programs to teach autistic children how to swim. Instructors here must go through an extra layer of certification to work with special-needs children. And kids are matched with qualified instructors through Broward and Palm Beach county water-safety agencies.
“It’s a great model, the best in the country,” says Jack Scott, executive director of the Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. “Florida is trying to teach them water safety rather than have instructors who just throw up their hands and say, ‘They can’t do it.’ ”