The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

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I Did It!
Did You See Me?
Did You See Me?
I Did It!

Michael Peoples' parents and three siblings love to scuba dive and he dreamed of joining them. By 9 years old, he was an exceptional swimmer and a good listener in the pool. Although Michael will never be a certified diver, his parents spoke with the staff at Don Foster's dive operation in Grand Cayman, about what experiences could be possible. Don Foster's started him in scuba lessons with a wonderful and highly experienced PADI Instructor named Polly Cox. Polly had experience teaching individuals with other disabilities to scuba dive but Michael was the first person she worked with who had a cognitive delay. Every summer for the next 5 years in the dive center's pool, Michael spent several days learning the skills, each year reviewing what he had learned and building on that with new skills. He learned the equipment, how to operate it, and safety measures. Sometimes Polly adapted the training just for Michael's level and understanding. By the time he was 14 years old, Polly, and Michael, believed that he was ready for an actual ocean dive. The next day, Michael, along with Polly and his family, jumped off a dive boat dive into the ocean. Jumping into the open ocean with all the gear on was a little scary for Michael, but with Polly constantly at his side, he successfully completed his first ocean dive! Michael's second dive, however, was truly incredible. Instead of using a boat, the plan was to go down a ladder at the boat pier and descend into about 15 feet of water. Everything went perfectly. Polly, staying right at Michael's side, led him and his family out to the nearby reef. While exploring the reef in 27 feet of water, Michael suddenly signaled a problem with his mask. Polly signaled back for him to clear it. He cleared it but then later signaled the problem again. The seal around his prescription dive mask lens had blown out and his mask was completely flooded with water! Michael signaled that he wanted to go up. Polly signaled "No!" Stay with me! " Even though they had a floating "Divers Below" flag above them, Polly wanted to make sure that they surfaced away from any boat dangers on the surface. According to Polly, even though scuba training teaches new divers how to deal with flooded masks, many beginners panic the first time water fills their mask while on an actual dive and not in the practice pool. Michael wasn't like many beginner divers, though. He didn't panic. He did exactly what he learned to do during his years of training. He stayed calm, thought it through, and followed Polly's instructions. Polly gradually led Michael to shallower water in an area with no boat traffic. The group surfaced and swam together back to shore for a celebration of Michael's amazing accomplishment! Every summer, Michael continues his scuba diving training and practice in the dive center's pool preparing for the moment when he's ready to jump back in ocean again...maybe this year!




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Diane Sabatier, United States, LA
8/10/2011 3:26:12 PM
So Cool... Congratulation Michael! What a wonderful way to see the world.

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