A SWIMMING school dedicated to improving the lives of autistic children and adults - Aqua-Babe is Trader of the Week.

Aqua-Babe is a swimming school providing baby, toddler, and pre-school swimming lessons, and more recently, adapted lessons for people with autism.

The company was launched 26 years ago by Kim Willingham. Kim had been working in HR at the time but was keen for a career change.

They 62-year-old from Wareham, said: “I started with lessons for babies and children, but I found I was attracting autistic children.

“People kept telling me ‘you’re so good with them’.”

Bournemouth Echo: Kim during a lesson Kim during a lesson (Image: Aqua-Babe)

It was then that Kim decided to undergo specialist training and got in touch with Autism Swim (AS) – an international water safety and swimming company supporting individuals with the disability.

Kim told the Daily Echo: “There’s nothing in the UK, so I went to Autism Swim which is really big in Australia.

“I did an online course, and that was really quite intensive. But I am now on the map as the only Autism Swim-approved school in Dorset, and one of about 25 in the UK.”

With the training under her belt, Kim has been able to support a group of autistic children and adults, as well as the baby, toddler, and pre-school students she had before.

On how teaching a person with autism differs, Kim said: “They are neurodiverse, and sometimes they can’t cope with the smell of chlorine, or the noise, or can’t do the mainstream learning if they can’t sit and listen.

Bournemouth Echo: Kim teaches from The Junction Sports & Leisure CentreKim teaches from The Junction Sports & Leisure Centre (Image: Aqua-Babe)

“I’ve got a little boy coming at the moment, and they recently changed a pair of steps in the swimming pool.

"They’re nowhere near where we are swimming, but it completely freaked him out.

“They like their routine, and everything has to be the same.”

Kim currently runs her lessons from The Junction Sports and Leisure Centre in Broadstone but has dreams of more.

She said: “If I won the lottery, I’d build a swimming pool in Dorset with the 50m and 25m lanes, and then a nice warm pool for the disabled and the young.

"I’d teach and everyone could use the pool free of charge.”

For more information visit the Aqua-Babe website.