If there’s one thing that stood out about Garrett when I met him, it’s that he’s got goals. Watching him in the pool working on his swim strokes with the rest of his Indianola Tide YMCA teammates, what you see is what you get — a fun-loving, enthusiastic and hard-working kid. But when you dig a little deeper, there’s a lot more to learn about just how far he has come.
The youngest of five, Garrett was diagnosed at an early age with a pervasive communication disorder, both expressive and receptive. He didn’t talk much until after age 3, so not being able to communicate led to frustration and the development of certain behaviors. “Garrett has many tendencies similar to autism, but not enough to qualify for that specific diagnosis,” his mom, Jen, explains.
Garrett’s family joined the Y shortly after it opened. Jen was a swimmer as a child, and since Garrett and his older brother took to the water at a young age, it seemed like a great fit for everyone. “I'm not sure Garrett would tell you that he loves swim team,” Jen laughs. “But, we require our kids to be involved in at least one physical activity and since group/team sports did not work out well for him in the past, we felt like swimming was a natural choice because he loves the water.”
“Swimming helps me get stronger and faster. Plus, it makes me feel like I am in the Olympics when people are cheering for me!”
The Tide team practices several nights a week and while it’s a team sport, it works for Garrett to compete as an individual. Being part of the swim team has not only helped him learn to take directions from other adults, but also to cheer for teammates, get along with others and work hard. “Swimming helps me get stronger and faster,” he says. “Plus, it makes me feel like I am in the Olympics when people are cheering for me!”
Despite his academic and social challenges, Garrett has made amazing strides in school and has a fantastic imagination. When Jen signed him up for two YMCA day camps this past summer, she knew he would be able to use his creativity and share it with others. “[Y employee] Casey put a lot of time into planning fun and engaging activities for the Treasure Hunt and Lego Robot camps,” says Jen. “They made a special effort to include Garrett by giving him some leadership roles in those activities and he came home pumped up and feeling like a champ.”
While he’s sticking with swim team for now, Garrett says he’s ready to take on some new challenges such as running and lifting weights. “I want to run a race!” he exclaims. As long as he keeps creating, experimenting and growing, there’s no doubt Garrett will reach every goal he sets for himself.