Swim Team Empowers Autistic Kids Achieve Greatness

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Producer/Director, Lara Stolman and Mike McQuay, Head Coach of the Jersey Hammerheads, to talk about how Mike's swim team is empowering kids on the autism spectrum to achieve greatness.

12/18/17 #2092






"Mikey, now do the kick. You gotta kick hard off the wall. Ready? Swimmers on your mark? Go! The doctors told us that Michael would never talk. He would never be able to change his own pants. That he would never be self-sufficient. And I think it just took trial and error for me and my wife not giving up, saying that he would do more. We said, we're not gonna give up on him. He can do something. You just have to spend time with him. That is an excerpt from a film originally that aired on PBS as part of POV. It is powerful stuff. That is called Swim Team, and Lara Stolman is Director, Producer, of Swim Team, and Mike McQuay, is coach of Jersey Hammerheads swim team. Thank you both for joining us. Set this up for us. The film. Made when? So we filmed in 2014 for over a year, and it's chronicling a season in the life of a competitive swim team made up of diverse teens on the autism spectrum. All from New Jersey. Middlesex County. Mostly. How did you find him? So I was actually looking for swimming lessons for my own child. I have a child with autism, and it's not easy to find any kind of extracurricular activity for your child when your child is different. And I heard about coach Mike and his wife Maria, and I went to visit them at their local YMCA in Perth Amboy, and I saw their son, Mikey, swim. And I was just so inspired by what they had done with him. Mike... again both of you have a personal, and very powerful, connection to this film and to the subject we're talking about. Yeah. What do they tell you about your boy? Oh, just accept what he can do. He can't... he's gonna be probably... institutionalized probably. When did they tell you that? What age was he? When he was almost four years old. Go ahead. It took us almost a year and a half to get him diagnosed. The waiting list was so long. He'll never be able to change his pants, never talk, brush his teeth, never be self-sufficient, and just, you know, he's autistic. And go from there. What did you think? I cried. [laughter] I cried. My wife cried. And we said, "We can do more. Let's not give up on our child." How did you know? How did you know that he could do more? Oh... That you could do more? I just believed in it. And I just... I just believe that these kids... you've always heard about kids can do more than what expectations are, and if society..."