Swimming has improved student’s quality of life

Sun Media, Don Peat April 17, 2008
One student has a good reason to stand up for the Toronto public school board pools — without them she would have a harder time standing at all.

Lauren Daly, 16, says the pool at her school has made all the difference in helping her overcome some of the physical barriers created by her cerebral palsy.

"For people with a physical or intellectual disability, swimming is one of the only sports in high school where there is a category for us to compete in," Daly told the Sun yesterday. "Closing pools is not an option."

Although York Mills Collegiate Institute's pool isn't on the chopping block yet, Daly said students were told it would likely be closed in 2011.

Students with disabilities in other schools won't be as lucky if the proposed list of schools are closed.

Six of the pools on the board's chopping block last night have the special education aquatics program for students with developmental and physical disabilities. Overall, the board has 23 pools with the program.

Daly has been swimming for as long as she can remember.

"It's important in my life," the Grade 11 student said.

She takes part in competitive speed swimming at school and synchronized swimming at Variety Village.

In the pool it's a level playing field and she's besting kids without disabilities.

"It makes you feel pretty good," she said. "It's something you don't get to (athletically) anywhere else."

Her mom, Patty, says swimming has helped her daughter build up her muscles and walk more comfortably with a less noticeable gait.

"She is on the York Mills swim team and has placed first for two years in a row in OFSAA," Patty Daly said. "Her therapists are always amazed at her flexibility and this is all a result of her involvement in swimming."

When the family travels to meets outside the city, she said they are always impressed by the pools.

"The community of Toronto relies on the pools within the high schools to compensate for the lack of pools in the community," she said.