MINOT, N.D. - The Minot Family YMCA began the "All Kids Swim Program" about three years ago. It's an inclusive swim class for children who have diverse abilities.
Taking off into the water with confidence hasn't always been the case for Owen.
"He's gotten so much stronger. He can swim the whole length of the pool now. When we first started he could get half way down the pool and then he was tired,” said Mimi Kersten, Owen and Carter’s mom.
What started as autism swim four years ago, has evolved into something much bigger.
"I saw a need to be even more inclusive. Why not open it up to children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome. Children who are wheel chair bound. Children who may be missing a limb,” said YMCA Aquatics Director Alina Olivares.
Kyle, who has spina bifida, is one of the kids who has benefited. His mom says he has learned so much.
"How to swim with his abilities. So using the things he does have and strengthening them. For him, his legs just drag behind him. So learning what stokes work best,” said Heidi Wilhelm, Kyle’s mother.
"Not everybody is the same. That challenges us to make our program more fluid and able to adapt any type of teaching style to that child,” said Olivares.
All of these children have their own obstacles to overcome, but in All Kids Swim, no one is singled out.
"The freedom to be like everyone else. Really for him, that everyone else is having issues or someone else might be having the same issue as him and it is nice to know that he is not alone,” said Wilhelm.
Seven-year-old Carter is now able to swim freestyle, jump in the pool, and get out without help.
"He is willing to try it and he is not afraid of the water which is a major plus,” said Mimi Kersten.
What the kids learn in the pool helps them out of it, too.
"I think his confidence has grown too because there are so many things he can't do, but he can always go swimming,” said Wilhelm.
Making sure every kid has the chance to swim.
Heidi told us that the instructors really want to help these kids. Kyle is wheelchair bound and a few weeks ago they taught him how to get out of his wheelchair under water in case he were to ever fall in.
If you are interested in signing your child up for the class, you can give the Minot YMCA a call at 701- 852-0141.