Finding the right support helps Ian dive into learning to swim

Finding the right support helps Ian dive into learning to swim

Ian Newnham, a client of St Agnes’ Care & Lifestyle who resides at St Julian House, one of the Parish’s Supported Independent Living houses, has longed to learn to swim most of his life.

Staff at St Agnes’ Care & Lifestyle are helping Ian fulfill this dream, through their role in assisting Ian with coordination of the supports he needs.

Sandy Menzies (Manager NDIS Services) and Angela Phillips (NDIS Coordinator of Support) were aware that learning to swim was one of Ian’s goals, so they set about finding a swimming teacher compatible with his learning needs.

Ian lives with epilepsy, which makes it more challenging for him to do some activities that others take for granted.

“Angela gave me a ring and she said Sandy and I were thinking that you might like to go and learn how to swim if we can find the right person – what do you think? and I said to Angela ‘I would love to learn how to swim”, relates Ian.

“I started about six to eight weeks ago and I am really enjoying it,” he adds.

Born in Wauchope, Ian’s family lived in Cameron Street, the same street as the public swimming pool, but because of Ian’s condition his late mother worried about him being near the water.

His brother (and guardian) has been incredibly supportive of his participation in weekly swimming lessons, recognising Ian’s desire to learn to swim.

Ian now swims one morning a week with a qualified swim teacher, who picks Ian up each Tuesday. His weekly lessons take place at various pools across Wauchope Laurieton, Kew, and Port Macquarie.

After his first session, Ian commented to St Agnes’ Care & Lifestyle staff that he is “living the dream”.

Ian had tried to learn to swim in the past but says the difference this time is that the person he is learning from understands the difficulties he must overcome to manage in the water.

“When I was at school, I used to always think that I wouldn’t be able to be taught to swim but now, thanks to Angela finding the right person for me to learn with, I have the chance to do swimming lessons,” says Ian.

“My teacher makes me feel like I can do it; she encourages me; and allows me to take those little steps I need to make me feel successful with it…. that’s the difference this time around.”

The thing Ian enjoys most about his swimming lessons “is being able to get a lot more movement in my arms and legs – it is much better than sitting in one place too long.”

“Some days I can’t kick my legs, other days I do better, but I am enjoying being in the water and being more active,” says Ian.

When asked what he has found the hardest thing about learning to swim, Ian says with a smile, ‘When I try to go and float on my back – I really can’t float at all so that’s a bit of a challenge’.

Ian says he feels good about what he is achieving with his swimming and is proud of his progress because it is something he has wanted to do for a long time.

“I am now able to take a breath and swim a few strokes before I hold on to the side of the pool for a rest – I am making progress, which makes me happy”.

“Sometimes I go out with a community group run by Coralville Care to have a barbeque – I think there is one coming up soon down at Kendall Pool, so I am hoping to have a swim as well – because of my epilepsy I always have to have someone with me when I swim”, says Ian.

“I am not sure what will happen when winter comes, and it gets too cold to swim. I am hoping we can try to do something else.”

With a positive mindset firmly in place, Ian is enthusiastic about life and looking for other opportunities to try new things.

man swimming in pool

Above: Ian Newnham is fulfilling his lifelong dream to learn to swim.

lady and man sitting

Above: Megan Barber, St Agnes’ Catholic Parish Communications Coordinator, caught up with a very relaxed Ian Newnham on the verandah of St Julian House after his regular Tuesday morning swimming lesson for a chat about his progress.

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