Baby Otter Andre Dawson Aquatic Center Teaches Kids To Swim From The Comfort of Their Home
By : Stephanie Cornwell
The Baby Otter Andre Dawson Aquatic Center, named after the Hall of Famer and former Miami Marlins Baseball player, is a traveling swim school. With their motto of “Our school, your pool”, they work to make students feel calm and comfortable in their own homes.
Baby Otter was opened 40 years ago, when Marlene Bloom, co-founder, realized that her two-year-old daughter was being denied swimming lessons because of her young age.
Bloom knew that her daughter loved the water, but she did not want to put her in a pool without learning how to swim first.
After being told by numerous swimming schools that her daughter was too young (under the age of 3), Bloom decided it was time to construct a swimming school that could teach young children how to swim.
Now, Baby Otter has expanded. They kaitor to all ages, from eight-month-old babies, to senior citizens. They also help children with special needs, who have been turned away by other swimming schools.
They travel to homes in Palm Beach, Broward County and Miami-Dade County.
With their trademarked method of Turn, Kick, Reach, Baby Otters teachers their students how survive in the water in just five days.
When asked how the program within five days, Bloom stated “We have a special curriculum every day. We teach the parents the proper technique so that they can practice with their children.”
Cate Crehan, mother of two autistic children, had been turned away by several swim schools who guaranteed to help special needs children, without meeting her children.
After being told that her children could not learn to swim, Crehan was introduced to Baby Otter. Immediately, she knew that her family was in good hands.
Though nonverbal, Crehan’s son, Indiana, was spoken to the same way as his sister, Layla, by the Baby Otter instructors. The instructors held both children to high expectations, not treating them differently because of their special needs.
Layla was able to swim within days of the lessons, and has become stronger and more confident. She is now on the Special Olympics swim team.
When asked how the Baby Otter swimming classes have affected Indiana, Crehan stated that “When he is swimming on a regular basis, he is more concentrated, relaxed, and has the willingness to learn.”
What separates Baby Otter from other swimming schools is the amount of emotional support and dedication to their students. According to Crehan, the school promised to stay with her children for no extra charge, to ensure that they were safe in the water.
With the team’s six trainers, Baby Otters encourages people to reach their potential. They explain to students that with practice, they can only get stronger. By teaching the parents how to help their children on their own time, students are constantly improving.
Bloom explains that “It is an amazing experience seeing people change from day 1 to day 5.” Many of the school’s students never thought they would have the ability to swim.
Parents of students with special needs tend to be emotional at the sight of their children overcoming their disability, explains Bloom. She tells parents “We would rather your child cry for these five days, then you cry for a lifetime.”
The Baby Otter Andre Dawson Aquatic Center guarantees more than swimming lessons, they instill confidence and hope to those who have never had that before.