Eight-year- old Lucas McKeown and his swim instructor Paul Murphy are doing a joint Swim-A-Thon to benefit the Tourette Alliance. Lucas was diagnosed at age 6 with Tourette Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder that includes vocal and motor tics and an array of co-occuring conditions. For Lucas this also includes a diagnosis of Autism.
Lucas and Paul, an instructor at Seaspuds Swimming in Belfast, plan to swim for a total of 100 lengths. When he started lessons nearly two years ago, Lucas was too anxious to even get a drop of water on his face. Paul gently coached and encouraged him from those first splashes, he’s now ready and able to take on this feat to help raise awareness for Tourette and other children and families in need.
“It’s a great pleasure for me to help out this wonderful charity that is so close to one of my wee swimmer’s heart”, said Paul, who is excited about the Swim-A-Thon, especially having watched Lucas change over time as he gained confidence in the water. Water has become the go-to for Lucas when life gets a little too much – all thanks to the unwavering, inspirational support of Paul, who was amazed at the progress that Lucas has made. “He is turning into a fantastic swimmer,” he said. “Swimming is a sport I’ve loved all of my life and it’s great for children who have disabilities like Lucas’. There’s something so calming about being in and under the water.”
Tourette Alliance Chairperson Suzanne Lavery said she’s excited to see how far Lucas has come and is herself inspired to know other children with Tourette Syndrome might benefit from similar instruction. “For Lucas, who has so much adversity from his Tourette, including anxiety and sensory issues, to have been able to achieve so much with the support of Paul, it’s truly incredible,” she said. “Lucas is so brave and we are quite proud, inspired and grateful to see how, even at such a young age, he’s using his strengths to help others see that having Tourette Syndrome doesn’t mean you’re not able to acheive your dreams.”
Lucas’ and Paul’s Swim-A-Thon will take place at 1:30 PM on the 9th April 2017 at Falls Leisure Centre in Belfast.
The Tourette Alliance is based in Northern Ireland and provides resources for support services along with access to state-of- the-art information on current research and medical treatments for Tourette Syndrome, Tic Disorders & Co-Occurring conditions.