Water Safety & Adaptive Swim Classes

Camp Puzzle Peace is excited to offer our new and improved Water Safety and Adaptive Swim Program. When we first began our program a year ago the focus was primarily of water safety skills. However, as our students have made great progress we find our program has evolved to incorporate an equal amount of time spent on adaptive swim instruction. Our program is cutting edge because we recognize the specific characteristics that are unique to individuals with autism and related disabilities. These challenges require at times a different instructional approach that our staff is excellent at.

Children may have difficulties with:

  • Behavior
  • Oral motor control
  • Communication
  • Low muscle tone
  • Personal safety
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Endurance

We will provide:

  • Social story
  • Differentiated instruction
  • 1:1 support
  • Use of private therapy pool
  • Picture schedule
  • Behavioral support
  • Written evaluation at the end of the program

Our new program will offer a pre-assessment of skills related to water safety and swimming skills. This assessment will be conducted by our certified water safety instructor. This program is taught by Alex Balta a certified special education teacher and water safety instructor and Jen Hackett a certified special education teacher. The classes are also supported by CPP volunteers.

There is a maximum of 5 children per session.  
Parents do NOT have to enter the water with their children.

Interview with Alex Balta

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing swim instructor and architect of CPP's Water Safety program, Alex Balta for one of a series of short articles, highlighting our staff, that have appeared in our newsletter this year. Due to the need to keep things brief, the majority of what Alex said was left out and I feel readers of the newsletter missed out on a lot of what makes Alex a vital member of the CPP team. I have therefore decided to share the full interview on this page. Enjoy!
-Brian M

Q: You were born and raised in Penfield, graduated from Penfield High School and currently live in Rochester. Is this correct?
A: Yes, I currently live in Rochester but was born and raised in Penfield, NY.

Q: You went to Nazareth College, what did you study? What degree(s) did you earn? Any other details of your educational background you wish to share?
A: I went to Nazareth and as an undergraduate I studied American Studies with a concentration in Elementary and Special Education. I then continued at Nazareth to receive my Master's degree in Literacy Education.

Q: How old were you when you first learned to swim? Who taught you?
A: I have been told that I could swim before I could walk. I know that I was taught to swim around the age of 2 at the Perkins Swim Club in Penfield. By the age of 5, mainly because my older brother was on the team, I joined Sea Dragons Swim Club, a local competitive swim club. I started swimming for Penfield High School's varsity swim team in 8th grade for the school swim season. I remained with the Sea Dragons until my freshman year of high school. At that time, I had become more competitive with my swimming and was looking for a new year-round team that would push me to my fullest potential as a swimmer. That is when we found and joined Fairport Area Swim Team (FAST). Once I graduated from high school, I swam for Nazareth college's swim team as well.

Q: When did you become a swim instructor? What motivated you to become a swim instructor?
A: I became a swim instructor for the first time when I was in high school and swimming for FAST. That was when I earned my life-guarding certification for the first time as well. I first became an instructor because it incorporated the two things I enjoyed most, swimming and working with kids.S

Q: You’ve worked for the Wayne Central School District since 2000, at which school do you teach?
A: I taught 10 years at Freewill Elementary where I taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades in a variety of settings and configurations (looping, blended and inclusive classrooms, multiage, etc). 5 years ago I moved to Ontario Primary School in our district where I have taught 1st and 2nd grade. Again, I have rarely taught the same thing two years in a row, so at OP I have taught in an inclusive, multiage, and general education classroom settings. I much prefer a more inclusive and diverse environment for teaching.

Q: Are you still teaching at the YMCA? How long have you been there?
A: I am still currently teaching at the downtown Carlson Y on Saturday mornings. I have been there for about 6 years now.

Q: Water safety certifications you hold?
A: Red Cross Water Safety Instructor

Q: How/when did you become involved with Camp Puzzle Peace?
A: Jen Hackett (I knew her from having Jordan in my class as a 3rd and 4th grader) asked me to help design and run a swim program from CPP in the spring of 2014. We created the program and materials together and then began implementing it that summer.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching the CPP Water Safety class?
A: I most enjoy the kids (swimmers) in our water safety class. Being a part of their comfort level, growth, and enjoyment of the water feeds my soul, but truly the children that we have the privilege to work with are a gift and they continually inspire me. Knowing that the children are learning skills that will help keep them safe and enjoying the water for years to come, is a wonderful thing to be able to be a part of. Working with CPP and our Water Safety class, currently brings me the most pride and joy.

Q: Could you describe your biggest challenge faced teaching CPP Water Safety? Greatest joy?
A: I think the greatest challenge I face teaching the CPP Water Safety class is being sure that every child is growing and that we are meeting all of their individual needs. We have an incredible staff of teachers and volunteers that work hard with each swimmer, but it is something that I am continuously thinking about. My greatest joy besides being part of such a great community, is watching the kids enjoy the water, some for the very first time. It's beautiful and magical.

Q: Broadly speaking, what are your future goals for the program?
A: Knowing that there are not a lot of Water Safety programs available out there for families throughout our country, I would love to see our program go nationwide someday. It would be wonderful to see drowning is no longer be the leading cause of death among children and families with autism. Lofty, I know but it is a dream!

Q: You're also a big fan of the band Phish, is that correct?
A: Is it a coincidence that my love for water would lead to me following my favorite band, Phish?! I think not. I started listening to them in college with my roommates and friends. The band , the music, and the people that you encounter through them are all truly beautiful, kind, thoughtful, loving people. It is a community unlike any other I have found and their music feeds the constant sounds playing in my head. Whether at a show, in my living room, or hanging out with friends, their music frees my soul, brings me great joy and peace, and can help me through some of my toughest times. I am eagerly awaiting summer tour!

Q: Anything else you would like to say about yourself?
A: I sincerely thank CPP for the opportunities and experiences that they have provided for me in the past few years. I have grown more as a person and educator because of those opportunities and I am forever grateful. I look forward to seeing how far we can continue to grow together.