Spirit of an Eagle

February 11, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Autistic swimmer inspires teammates

By Greg Farrar Trevor VanOrman, Issaquah High School sophomore, springs from the starting block for the second lap of his four-man team’s 200-yard freestyle relay race in January against Liberty High School at the Julius Boehm Pool.

By Greg Farrar
Trevor VanOrman, Issaquah High School sophomore, springs from the starting block for the second lap of his four-man team’s 200-yard freestyle relay race in January against Liberty High School at the Julius Boehm Pool.

Trevor VanOrman is arguably one of the most dedicated members of the Issaquah High School swim team.

He’s not on varsity, but that doesn’t stop him from watching hours of video every day. Nor does it or make him any less enthusiastic when he hits the pool.

Nothing comes easy for Trevor, who has autism, but the Issaquah sophomore brought a newfound spirit to the Eagles swim team, bringing them closer than ever before.

“It really is something powerful, seeing him swim and then exit the pool with a look in his eyes that just screams success,” Issaquah senior Keith Nussbaum said. “We’ve never had that type of energy on our team before.”

Di VanOrman, Trevor’s mother, approached swim coach Laura Halter at the beginning of the season about letting her son join the team. Di admitted she was nervous, almost apologetic, as she explained Trevor’s special needs.

“Coach Laura just looked at me and said, ‘Bring it on, we’re ready, bring him aboard,’” Di said. “That meant the world to us.”

Trevor had played sports before, and had taken swim lessons. Since he joined the team, though, he’s steadily improved, dropping times and perfecting technique, said his father Ransom VanOrman II.

A lot of it can be attributed to his teammates, Di said, who have clearly taken Trevor under their wing. They work closely with Trevor during practice, showing him how to do strokes and encouraging him as he tries them.

Trevor is a very visual person, who learns more by seeing something rather than taking verbal cues, Di said. So, the family started videotaping him and his teammates during practice and uploading the footage to an iPad for Trevor’s review.

He spends hours each day silently watching video of his teammates, learning how a particular stroke is supposed to look.

“It’s amazing the progress he’s made,” Ransom said. “I think it’s really cool that he’s found something that works for him that he can get better and better at.”

When Trevor is racing at a meet, you know it, Halter said, because the entire team is cheering for him. That’s how much he means to the Eagles.

At the first meet of the year, Ransom volunteered to shadow Trevor on the pool deck, making sure he went where he was supposed to go. It wasn’t necessary, Halter said, because there were more than enough boys willing to assist Trevor.

“I knew that his teammates would be kind, patient and helpful,” Halter said. “There’s always a boy willing to take care of Trevor, and most times, there were several.”

It brings tears to Di’s eyes when she thinks of the support the team has given Trevor. As much as he learns from them, though, his teammates are arguably learning more from him.

“Trevor always has such a positive attitude, and it’s so inspiring to see,” Issaquah senior Josh Bean said. “It really makes us realize you can do anything you put your mind to.”

There’s a more pronounced family atmosphere on this year’s team, thanks in part to Trevor. He’s just another one of the guys, Halter said, but his teammates would do anything for him.

“The boys are very protective of him,” she said. “If anybody from another team ever messed with Trevor, boy, my boys would be all over them.”

Trevor likes swimming because it gives him a sense of control, Di said. He feels free under the water without any distractions. It has also helped him socially, as he has bonded with his teammates.

Di recalled a week when he missed some practices due to illness. Trevor wasn’t feeling well, but he wanted to go to practice because he “missed the guys.”

“My guess is that none of these boys will forget this year,” Halter said. “They will never forget that they were given the opportunity to swim with Trevor.”

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One Response to “Spirit of an Eagle”

  1. Harriet Ott on February 12th, 2014 7:37 pm

    This is a great story about integrating an autistic child into the high school
    swim team. Missing from this story is the highly qualified aquatic therapists
    at Community Integrations Services which taught Trevor to swim from the beginning and helped him to attain his first gold metals at Special Olympics Aquatic Regionals last March.

    Perhaps you might be interested in a follow up story about this amazing program
    that helps bring Autistic children to a level in which they can participate in a “regular” swim team program, and thus integrating not only with this sport, but also school peers.

    Contact me at 425-830-7746

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