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Thursday, October 5, 2017

'Swim Team,' a Documentary About Young Athletes with Autism, to Air on 'POV'

From Education Week's Blog
"Education and the Media"

By Mark Walsh
October 2, 2017

"Swim Team," a documentary about young people with autism who compete for a New Jersey swim team, appears Monday night on the public television show "POV."

The film by director and producer Lara Stolman received strong reviews when it appeared in film festivals and during a short theatrical release earlier this year. It airs at 10 p.m. Eastern time on October 2, but check local listings.

SWIM TEAM is a documentary following three young athletes with autism as they strive to become champions. On the competitive swim team the Jersey Hammerheads, athletes with autism are treated like typical athletes and challenged like never before. Coming of age and facing exclusion, these boys and their parents struggle to create opportunities in and out of the water and to define identities beyond disability. SWIM TEAM tells a universal story about the self-fulfilling prophecy of high expectations. For more information, go to

(The folks at POV sent me a screener, but I unfortunately experienced some glitches trying to watch it over the past few days. I'm going to blame my own Internet connection rather the screening link.)

Still, from the few minutes I was able to watch, and from everything else I've seen and read about this film, it seems like a valuable effort to showcase a sports team for young men with developmental disabilities that is helping them both in school, in family life, and in personal growth.

"Children with developmental disabilities are routinely excluded from community activities, often as early as preschool," Stolman says in press materials. "Being told '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 families caring for children with disabilities hear often."

"Since children on the [autism] spectrum are particularly prone to drowning, swimming is a crucial skill, but it's not easy to find appropriate teachers and programs willing to take on an autistic child," Stolman added in the materials.

She found the Jersey Hammerheads, a team for students with autism, which was founded by Mike McQuay Sr. and his wife, Maria, whose son, Mikey Jr., in the film is 17 and close to the end of his high school years. Other featured swimmers are 16-year-old Robert Justino and 22-year-old Kelvin Truong, who has aged out of school district services.

"When I'm swimming, I feel normal," Mikey says during the film.

Stolman also produced this roughly 8-minute version of her documentary in 2015:

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