BEAUFORT, CARTERET COUNTY - If you walk into the pool area at the Eastern Athletic Center on a Friday what you'll find is pure joy.
A group of special needs students from Beaufort and Smyrna Elementary Schools are taking swimming lessons but they're learning so much more than kicking and breathing. Teachers say the water is helping kids speak, think, and move.
"What we noticed was, when we went to go wash hands they were very engaged and they would speak more" says Beaufort Elementary Exceptional Children's Teacher Dana Tucker, "So we wanted to incorporate water into the learning process."
Each class at the pool has brought big results. During the first lesson a 9 year old boy named Jayden Wells spoke his teachers for the very first time.
"The first time we went to the pool he loved it so much he requested more. And then we incorporated counting in it and he counted to three verbally which is the first time we've ever heard him speak words." says Tucker.
In the second swim lesson another non-verbal student began counting to eight in sequence.
"Even though we count all the time in the classroom with almost everything we do. We didn't realize he was really getting it." Says Tucker
Other students like Kiah Ivester are using the water for physical therapy. Kiah has Cerebral Palsy. The water allows her to kick and move without the use of a wheelchair. Tucker has been working with Kiah for two years now. She says it was amazing to see her get into the water.
"When I saw Kiah get in for the first time, I was just overwhelmed with joy because her face lit up and she has so many limitations and the water removed all that." Says Tucker.
The success of the classes is starting to spread. The idea has been approved by the Carteret County Superintendent Dr. Novey. Beaufort Elementary teachers say there has been interest in the program by staff from Bogue Sound Elementary. So far this year the Special Olympics has helped provide funding and a volunteer lifeguard for the class. In the future, teachers say they hope to be able to compete with their aquatic program in the Special Olympics. The Eastern Athletic Center is letting students use the pool one day a week free of charge.