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SWIM receives AOTA Outstanding Student Advocate Award

Students Gabby Heckman, Caroline Thompson, Lydia Ely, and Audrey Imhoff

MU occupational therapy students Gabrielle Heckman, Caroline Thompson, Lydia Ely and Audrey Imhoff will receive the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Outstanding Student Advocate Award. This national award recognizes their work with Swimming and Water Instruction Modifications (SWIM) for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

They were nominated by occupational therapy faculty members Brittney Stevenson and Lea Ann Lowery. The award will be presented at AOTA’s annual professional conference in Philadelphia this spring.

“The award is important because it honors these students’ initiative to start this important program and their dedication in their free time to serve these kids and families,” Lowery said.

Recognizing that children with ASD have a statistically greater risk of drowning, SWIM developed an adapted swim lesson program. Initially created to serve children with ASD in the Columbia community, SWIM has since expanded their training to Parks and Recreations and YMCAs across the state of Missouri.

“This recognition for our SWIM group is a high honor from our profession and further positive recognition for this group of students who put in tremendous time and energy into starting a program to help improve the lives of children with ASD,” said Timothy Wolf, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “We are extremely proud of them.”