Mt Albert Aquatic Centre has opened their doors and are excited to welcome everyone back to our venue. Izzy is one of the passionate and dedicated lifeguards at Mt Albert who also teaches children with disabilities at the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre swim school program, and she has a special message to share.
Mt Albert Aquatic Centre Manager, Irene Smith says, “Izzy is one of our part-time lifeguards and swim teachers who has been with Mt Albert Aquatic Centre since the beginning of 2019. Izzy is one of a number of staff who excel at teaching children and adults with a disability. Over the last 12 months we have seen a rise in people attending the facility with various disabilities including our deaf community.”
Irene sat down with Izzy to ask her what she enjoys about teaching children with a disability and what makes us different.
What made you interested and confident to be able to teach to children with a disability?
“I grew up with an Uncle who had a disability and my preschool cousin started having seizures and was diagnosed with Epilepsy last year. As the episodes of Epilepsy increased she became less communicative so I thought I would learn some really basic sign language so I could teach her some signs to use when she was needing help. Now I teach two children who are either deaf or have parents who are deaf. I am still new to sign language but I love it and want to keep learning it so I can be more proficient in it and can communicate more with our deaf community.”
What do you enjoy about teaching children with disability?
“As teenagers we can be overly focused on how we are perceived so it is really grounding to be able to help someone achieve even the most basic thing. It can really put everything into perspective. I really enjoy teaching children with Autism. I can adapt the class to become a fantasy world where there are rocket ships going to another planet, or a world under the sea. It makes it so much more fun! The kids are still learning the basic skills but they have been adapted to suit their way of learning. I also find a majority of children with a disability have overcome so much they don’t seem to be as afraid as other children I teach and are keen to give anything a try. I learn more from them than they do from me sometimes.”
What do you think makes Mt Albert Aquatic Centre different from other venues?
“I would hope that all venues welcome people of all abilities and disabilities. What makes our Centre special is everyone who comes to the pool is welcomed and made to feel like a member of our community. We have normalised and taken the stigma away from the behaviours that typically align with Autism, so our members have become more accepting as well. Staff are all able to say ‘hello, how are you’ in sign language to acknowledge our deaf community just as our other customers may be spoken to in their own language if English is not their first language and our staff can speak their language.”
National Disability and Diversity Manager, Dr Jeff Walkley said, “Mt Albert Aquatic Centre shows again why it is a leader championing inclusion by creative messaging that promotes inclusive communication. In 2019, this venue was the winner among over 150 venues for the Belgravia Leisure Community Inclusion Award, a wonderful achievement in a highly competitive field of finalists who had each done wonderful work!”
Irene said, “As a manager I am really proud of our team. Over the last 4.5 years of managing Mt Albert I have seen the growth and confidence in our staff with interacting and supporting our disabled or marginalised community. Each new learning experience equips them with skills and the mindset that anything is possible and that they shouldn’t presume someone can’t do something because of the way they appear.”