Swim-In for Autism creates a good day for families

Swim-In for Autism creates a good day for families

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For families affected by autism, good days are not guaranteed.

But on Sunday, the Swim-In for Autism at the Kroc Center in Biloxi provided more than just a lap around the pool or a trip down the water slide.

"Any chance that my daughter can go play with her peers gives me a chance to interact with parents, adults, and that gives me a break, definitely," Adrienne Flowers said.

It's hard to describe her life if you haven't lived it.

"Every day is unpredictable," she said. "You never know what you're going to get. You could wake up with a happy child, or you could wake up with a child that's just incredibly angry or incredibly focused on one thing. Like, maybe, not eating yellow food that day."

The goal of Swim-In for Autism is to provide that good day. Melodie Gunter has four children. Her son, Shawn, is autistic.

"He doesn't feel ridiculed or he's not embarrassed to come here because other places that we go, sometimes people will stare at him or don't just quite get him - things that he says or does," Gunter said. "And everyone's the same here, so he feels equal."

It's the fourth swim-in by the Mississippi Centers for Autism & Related Developmental Disabilities. It's made possible through a grant by IP Casino and is offered to all family members.

"Everybody has something in common of course because they have a child with autism," said Wayne Williams, MCARDD executive director. "Sometimes, just the ability to laugh and play around with each other and enjoy the other kids is good for the soul, you might say."

The hope is that the autism organization efforts will make a long-term difference like they have for honorary board member Donald Johnson. Seeing children with autism have fun is rewarding for him.

"It makes me feel that we've done a good job," said Johnson.

One in 68 children has autism. On the Mississippi Coast, there are between 4,500 and 5,500 children with autism and more than 16,000 in the state.

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