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Disorder can't keep Tampa first-grader from pool


Published:   |   Updated: June 26, 2013 at 09:26 AM

TAMPA - The doctors said nothing could be done.

In a state where kids need to know how to swim, or at least save themselves in case of a pool accident, Dave and Heather Snyder were told that their oldest child would never be able to swim and that giving lessons was hopeless.

Dave and Heather didn't believe the prognosis. Their adopted son, Andrew, now 6, and a proud first-grader, is doing just fine. Andrew has been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (also known as Sensory Processing Disorder), a complicated way of saying that it's difficult for him to know where his limbs are at certain times. Andrew has been through occupational therapy and he is going to start first grade next year at a neighborhood school. He is expected to fit in just fine.

The early returns on Andrew, who was adopted as a foster child - just like the three younger siblings in the Snyder family - weren't so good.

"We were told he could never learn how to swim," Heather said. "I just told them that he would."

As Andrew grew into his toddler years, he took swim lessons at Maureen's Swim Academy, based in the Westchase area, and started to learn. He isn't ready to be an Olympian, but he can survive and that's the important thing.

Swimming is tough for a child with Andrew's disability. To make it simple, one side doesn't know what the other is doing. That's tough when it comes to swimming, when the two arms and legs need to be in synchronicity, but Dave said Andrew doesn't even know he has a disability. Dave should know. He lives in a wheelchair after suffering a waterskiing accident when he was 15. Dave hasn't walked since.

"He doesn't know anything is wrong," Dave said. He is comfortable with himself and knows that if he falls in the water, he can get out. The doctors said he would never be able to do it but he did. He's a fighter."

Heather remembers thinking that the therapists were all wrong the whole time.

"They told us to not even let Andrew near a pool," Heather said. " 'Don't even try it,' they said. We aren't going to live like this. We were going to take every chance we could to get Andrew to learn how to swim."

Andrew is very energetic and said he was scared the first time he tried swimming, but only the first time. He isn't ready to do laps, he said after a day at Weeki Wachee, but he's confident enough to go into the water.

"That would be boring to be like that for my whole life," Andrew said. "It's fun. I like it."

Andrew is the oldest sibling in a family that includes Joseph and Hannah, both 4 and also former foster children, and an infant, Christian. Joseph is the jock of the family and can throw a wicked left-handed fastball. The three oldest spend a lot of time there.

Disappointment was heavy among the kids when thunder and lightning came close to the home during a photo shoot, but Andrew said there would be plenty of time to go back.

"It's just fun," Andrew said. "I can swim."

And they said it couldn't be done.

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