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Yes we can!

Oliver Barnes has overcome a lot – certainly more than any six-year-old should have to – and now, thanks in part to Satan’s Little Helper, he’s finding out that he can achieve some of the same things his peers can!

When you hear about what Oliver Barnes has had to overcome, you can start to appreciate why he’s so special to his mum Jessica.

The first few years of his life were a bit rocky. The family experienced some instability, “which was very hard on Oliver,” says Jessica. Then, he was diagnosed with autism and global development delay.

“He’s completely non-verbal and is on the severe side of autism in terms of his self-care and emotional regulation. He struggles with all of that.”

Us against the world

Oliver also has Gorlin syndrome, which is an additional worry for Jessica. People with the condition are at high risk of cancer and can develop cysts on the jaw and multiple skin problems.

“Gorlin is genetic and I also have the syndrome. I’m concerned about how it’ll affect Oliver, as he’ll require a full jaw x-ray soon, which he might have to be sedated for.

“I had about 10 surgeries when I was a teenager,” explains Jessica. “I’m worried that Oliver won’t cope well if he needs cysts removed.”

It’s now mother and son against the world – and the pair aren’t doing too badly when you take everything into account.

“He’s enrolled in a special school, which is integrated with a mainstream school, so he gets the best of both worlds and he’s doing well.”

Going swimmingly

But still, sometimes Oliver needs to retreat into his happy place and have some time where he’s the centre of attention – and who can blame him?

Swimming fits the bill for him, but private lessons don’t come cheap. So, when Satan’s Little Helper caught wind of Oliver’s story, it was an easy decision to support his need to be in the water.

It’s also great for his muscles, gives Oliver some much-needed one-on-one time with Jessica and is a therapeutic experience for him. Plus, learning to swim is such an important milestone in anyone’s development!

“He loves swimming. His teacher is amazing, because she gets him and knows how he learns best. Over the course of the term, he’s made amazing progress – plus it helps soothe his body.

“Two months ago, he couldn’t go underwater and now he can. He can basically swim a doggy paddle now, which was one of our big goals leading into the summer – now if he falls into a pool by mistake, he’ll know what to do.”

Multiple benefits

Oliver is a lot calmer in the water, adds Jessica, and it seems to have a positive effect on his behaviour out of the pool.

“When I saw his progress at his last session, it made my eyes tear up straight away. It means a lot to see him happy – there hasn’t been a lot of joy in his life over the past couple of years.

“Another thing that’s so important is that swimming shows him that he can do anything other kids can do, even if it takes a bit longer. It’s the one place we see happiness, progress and hope for the future and we’re so grateful for that.”


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