I have long believed that our greatest barriers in life are each other. We are more often told we can’t do something than offered help to do it. I am actively trying to change this. I started with myself, by taking on physical challenges like swimming 70km, most able-bodied people would never attempt.

I did this while living with Multiple Sclerosis. I did this to prove to myself that I could and to show others that you should not place limitations on people. You see, when I was first diagnosed, my doctor told me not to exercise.

SwimGift: Swimming with Spirit Orcas is an open water swim program the challenges our assumptions about ourselves and about neurodivergent adults. The program offers free coaching to people who are new to the sport. One might assume the participants are neurodivergent. They are not. They are the coaches – Spirit Orca coaches.

The Spirit Orcas are a group of neuro diverse open water swimmers living with what many of us know as autism, Down syndrome, anxiety disorders, learning delay and other intellectual disabilities. Ordinarily, those who are neurodivergent would be the recipients of coaching. SwimGift: Swimming with Spirit Orcas has taken the bold move to engage these adult athletes as coaches, and they are coaching neurotypical adults.

The program challenges our perceptions and attitudes towards those who we see as disabled. SwimGift: Swimming with Spirit Orcas shows us how our own bias can be the greatest barrier of all. Susan Simmons Ultra-marathon swimmer living with Multiple Sclerosis


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