Swim Team

PBS Premiere: Oct. 2, 2017Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Statement

When people ask me how I found the story of Swim Team, I say it found me.

Children with developmental disabilities are routinely excluded from community activities, often as early as preschool. No -- your child can't be in the regular class; your child won't keep up in Little League; your child isn't going to college -- is something parents caring for children with disabilities hear often.

Since children on the autism spectrum are particularly prone to drowning, swimming is a crucial skill for them. Yet it's not easy to find appropriate teachers and programs willing to take on a child on the spectrum. While exploring swimming lessons for my own children, I stumbled upon the Jersey Hammerheads, a team in formation at the time that was recruiting children and teens on the autism spectrum. I was immediately struck by the energy and optimism of the families who were coming together to form the team. Some of the kids were teenagers and had never been on a sports team before. And some couldn't yet swim. But this team was determined to dominate the competition.

In parents in Hammerheads families, I found a group who refused to take no for an answer. They were saying yes, and it was galvanizing for them as a community. As a mother, I was so personally inspired by what they wanted to accomplish and believed that their high expectations could translate beyond the pool. I hope my film provides inspiration for families everywhere raising children with unanticipated challenges.

Lara Stolman, Director/Producer