MAGALOG21 (2021)



Article by Margo Peyton I think all kids are special. In a way, every child I have ever trained or dived with has helped forge the passion and love of diving I hold in my heart today.This is a story of one particularly courageous and inspiring young man, who changed my life for the better. After 30 years of diving, Jacob Herzig was an unexpected gift.He has high functioning au- tism.While you might not think scuba diving would be a safe activity for an autistic child, it can be – and also life-changing, as it was for Jacob, his mom, and me. I didn’t know much about autism when I first met Jacob and his mother,Alison. I’ve come to learn that autism is a lot like being aware of everything going on around you – touch, site, sounds – magnified, and all at the same time. It can be overwhelming. Jacob tells me diving is the sport for him.He says it allows him to see clearly, think clearly and just be. He told me he loves the quiet underwater because he can’t hear his mom’s voice yack- ing at him.This amused me, because my own kids have said the same! After all, you can’t tell them what to do or not do, you just have to

let them be. Jacob loves that. A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE Training Jacob was a greater challenge, because he does not like to be touched and he can be uncomfortable making eye contact, two important requirements in teaching kids to dive. It was important first for me to earn his trust for those things to happen. Jacob started diving with me and became a PADI Jr. OpenWater diver when he was 10 years old. Since then, he and his mom have been travel- ing around the Kids Sea Camp world. Jacob will be 15 this year. When Jacob’s momAlison first called to tell me about her son, I was uncertain about tak- ing him diving. I wanted to make sure I would not disappoint them in any way, and that I could keep him safe. Most importantly this had to be a positive experience for Jacob. I love introducing both kids and adults to the underwater world. It’s my joy in life to make it as positive for every- one as it was for me and my two kids. Jacob learned to dive in Bonaire at Buddy Dive, where calm water is pretty much guar- anteed for most of the year and the water is

warm. I did not think getting Jacob in a wet suit was going to go over well, so the warmer water was important. Bonaire is fantastic for training as the water is crystal clear. On any given day you have 100+ feet (30m+) of visibility, the best possible conditions. Buddy Dive made it easy for me to arrange.We pro- vided Jacob with his own private instructor who had a great deal of experience in special needs. I tagged along to learn and make sure nothing went wrong. I toldAlison to go enjoy her own course, as she too was becom- ing certified.Who knew it would become a dive-around the- world agenda for a mom and son? She confided in me that initially her husband was to be Jacob’s dive buddy, but he thought it would make a better mother-son adventure. She told me how hard it was to get Jacob on a plane, how he did not like to sit still so long and did not like being inside of a flying capsule. I know many other travellers who have similar feelings. PLEASANTLY SURPRISED Jacob enjoyed being underwater and he became a PADI Jr. Scuba diver four years ago 803-419-2556 email:

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