South Tampa, Florida - On 10 News this morning - Joe and Allison talked to Walter Hale and his mother Heather Hale. They wanted to share their story about how the Y helped them manage Walter's autism.
Doctors diagnosed Walter with autism at the age of two. "I was told by doctors to not get my hopes up to ever have a meaningful conversation with him or for him to be able to talk," remembers his mother, Heather.
But after spending all summer at the South Tampa Family YMCA swimming, playing sports and taking field trips, Heather told us that Walter's social and verbal skills grew tremendously. "I was so happy. I just wanted to stay there for the whole year," recalls Walter.
Heather also says his experience at the Y is even impacting his performance at school. "He is now in a mainstream class and I think the Y had a huge part in doing that."
Most importantly, Walter learned a life-saving skill at summer camp. "Mr. 'deathly afraid of water' came in here saying, 'I will never be able to learn how to swim'," says Heather. But ask Walter what he did this summer and he instantly replies, "I learned how to swim." In fact, Walter loves swimming so much; he keeps begging Heather for a pool. He says, "I want a house that has a pool that goes 12 feet!"
Today, Walter is considered a very high-functioning autistic child; quite a difference from the boy who couldn't even speak until he turned five. Heather says, "Without the Y, I don't think that he would be able to do it."