Swimming has many benefits for all children. However, learning to swim is particularly beneficial for children with special needs. Swimming helps with balance, coordination and the development of motor skills. The YMCA Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) began 17 years ago and was designed to help individuals with special needs by boosting physical activity levels, developing self-confidence and teaching a lifesaving skill. The SNAP program was first developed by one of the Ys former SPY coaches whose daughter has Down Syndrome. The program has grown substantially since that first SNAP lesson. Initially the lessons were once a week and were supervised by SPY swim team members who volunteered their time. Today the SNAP program holds lessons five times a week, has incorporated private swim lessons and now is the home to a competitive swim team, the Snapping Turtles. The purpose of The Snapping Turtles is to expose individuals to new social interactions in a cohesive team environment, as well as provide them with an opportunity to compete in Special Olympics. In 2018 the YMCA had their first Special Olympic swim team with ten athletes competing. The SNAP swim program is subsidized by the Strong Kids scholarship fund. Strong Kids also supports individuals who want to participate in Special Olympics. Dona Sables, mother of Nick Sables and Snapping Turtle swimmer, says, “This program has really helped Nick stay active which is very important, but the relationships he has created by being a part of this team are priceless.” Nick, who is already a very social person, loves the program because it gives him an opportunity to see his friends on a weekly basis. The swim parents are also benefiting from the program. They cherish the time they get to sit and watch their kids swim and talk about what is going on in each of their lives. It’s a built-in support group that provides an outlet to discuss the complexities of having a child with special needs. In addition, the YMCA coaches are reaping big benefits. Rachel, head swim coach says, “This is the most rewarding job I have ever had. It is very satisfying to see my swimmers compete at the highest level in their sport. Being their swim coach has helped me decide that I want a career in helping individuals with special needs.” The benefits of this program are significant for swimmer, parent and coach. We are so proud and honored to watch their progress and be part of their journey. We will be rooting for the Snapping Turtles as they compete in Special Olympics at the end of March.