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The Lake News Online
  • Learning life lessons in the pool

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently raised its estimate of the prevalence of autism in the U.S. from 1 in 86 children to 1 in 50. A disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, communication difficulties and a range of other possible symptoms, autism is being diagnosed in children at an increasing rate across all lifestyles and income and education levels.
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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently raised its estimate of the prevalence of autism in the U.S. from 1 in 86 children to 1 in 50. A disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, communication difficulties and a range of other possible symptoms, autism is being diagnosed in children at an increasing rate across all lifestyles and income and education levels.
    For Gravois area resident Nathan Bebermeyer, autism has meant challenges over things that other might take for granted, but with help from family, he is learning to deal with it.
    Just a few months ago, the 11-year-old couldn't swim — afraid of the water and sensitive to the chlorine in pool water.
    People with autism sometimes have heightened senses. In addition to having sensitive skin, Nathan is bothered by noises — even just the buzz of the school cafeteria.
    But despite the challenges, the soon-to-be 6th grader is learning to swim. Nathan began taking swimming lessons about six months ago with Theresa Gramke at Westlake Aquatic Center in Laurie.
    Gramke is "helping me not get afraid of the water," says Nathan.
    A swim cap and goggles help shield him from the chlorinated water where he is most sensitive.
    When Nathan first started, Gramke says he wouldn't let go of her or go where his feet couldn't touch the bottom.
    "It was a real challenge. I didn't know if I would be able to get him to swim, but now he floats and swims and is doing great," says Gramke.
    Since Nathan's mother died in 2009, he has lived with grandparents Bob and Millie Bebermeyer.
    Being autistic and then losing his mother, Nathan has anger issues, says Millie, but he has come a long way since they brought him to Gravois from Texas four years ago.
    She enrolled Nathan in swimming lessons as something constructive but soothing that he could do after finding karate too stressful. He now enjoys his time at the pool and sometimes swims with his cousins after his lessons are over.
    Nathan is also taking piano lessons with Bethany Nichols and will have his first recital in July.
    "He's just doing real well," Millie says. "Everything is a challenge when you have autism, but he's overcome so much."
    Like his fear of the water, Nathan is learning to deal with things even when he doesn't like it. He eats lunch in the school cafeteria even though the noise bothers him, and he's learning to deal with bullying from kids who don't understand his disorder, says Millie.
    "He knows there are consequences when he's done something wrong. He's learned to man up and take it, and we get through it," she says.
    Page 2 of 2 - Nathan is also a straight A student, and he's regularly on the honor roll. Nathan is also a good speller, says Millie, and often helps grandma get her spelling right.
    "He's a really good kid — bright and knowledgeable," she says.
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