Autistic swimmer's successPosted: 14th April 2020
An autistic young swimmer is building his strength during the Coronavirus shutdown as he strives for Olympic success.
Jason Van Der Merwe secured a gold and two bronze medals at the Essex Swimming Championships recently.
The 11-year-old, who is a Year 7 student at Royal Docks Academy only learnt to swim at the age of six and is already setting his sights on future stardom.
He now competes in the 400m individual medley, 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle and 50m freestyle categories.
While his usual routine of swimming three mornings a week before school and five nights a week after school has had to stop due to the pandemic, he is focusing on keeping his fitness up.
Coaches at his swimming club, Barking and Dagenham Aquatics, are providing him with daily workout guides to keep him focused.
His proud mum Anna Swan said: “Jason was slow to learn to swim as we struggled to find anyone who could teach him. It was hard to find someone with the right approach to teaching him and he was not allowed to join any group sessions. In the end, we paid for private lessons. They understood his needs and found the right way to explain things to him. Slowly, he passed all the stages, so we signed him up to a swimming club at the age of nine.
“We moved him to Barking and Dagenham a year ago and his training has really stepped up. He wants to swim and to be successful. He never misses a session as he wants to be the best he can be.
“If someone told me a year ago he would be achieving medals for his swimming, I would not believe it.”
Jason is now in a new routine of doing his exercises in the garden to keep his strength up.
Ms Swan said: “The first week of the virus shutdown, Jason was really struggling. He was waking up at 5am wanting to go swimming as usual. It was very difficult as he could not understand why the pool was closed. When he cannot achieve what he wants – such as his homework or in a swimming competition – Jason will scream and shout as he can’t regulate his emotions. He loves the water and it really helps to calm him down.
“He now realises he can train, but just has to stay at home to do that.
“Being autistic, it can be difficult for Jason to get into a new routine. But, once that routine has been set, he then struggles to operate without it.”
The family are in the process of securing classification for Jason which would enable him to choose in future if he wanted to compete as an Olympian or Paralympian swimmer.
Ms Swan said: “I think he will go to the Games in future. I am so, so proud of him.”