Toronto-based Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital instructs the differently abled, especially children, alongside peers who don’t have disabilities. “We’re teaching kids the value of difference: Not everybody has to be the same,” says Louise Kublick, operations manager of aquatics, respite and snoezelen. “They learn that kids who don’t look, speak or behave like they do can still really like swimming, or cars or Minions. They can find common ground."
Since Kublick began overseeing the program in 1990, it has grown from two nights a week to seven full days, with approximately 50 instructors serving 1,000 clients. The reversely integrated swimming instruction ranks among its top offerings. Here, children with physical or mental disabilities are registered first, then other children from the community are added.
Staffers have developed effective ways of teaching those who struggle with communication or change, such as individuals with autism. Visual schedules, for instance, show which skills clients will learn and when. This provides more of a sense of control, which everybody prefers. “It’s been our pleasure to discover that many of those strategies work extremely well with typically developing kids as well,” Kublick says.