POV: Swim Team

POV: Swim Team

Thu, 01/28/2021 - 9:00pm - 10:30pm

Pictured: Members of the swim team.

Credit: PBS

When doctors told Michael and Maria McQuay that their son with autism would never be self-sufficient, the pair responded by seeking out a series of therapies and programs for him.

After discovering there was a dearth of suitable public services, they formed their own swim team for children with developmental disabilities. Lara Stolman’s inspiring debut documentary, Swim Team, airing Thursday, January 28 at 9pm on WXXI-TV, follows three diverse young men—Michael McQuay Jr., Robert Justino and Kelvin Truong—from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, who fall on the autism spectrum. New Jersey reports the highest rate of autism in the country, with one in 26 boys on the spectrum. On the McQuays’ team, the Jersey Hammerheads, these young men find inclusion, independence and space to achieve their loftiest goals.

This documentary is presented as part of Dialogue on Disability, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies that celebrates people with differing abilities.

At its heart, the eye-opening Swim Team chronicles the hard work and dedication the Hammerheads undertake to make life work in, and out, of the swimming pool. Justino dreams of making video games, despite predictions from his teachers that store clerking will be the only job available to him. Truong, who also has Tourette’s syndrome, struggles with controlling verbal and physical outbursts.

Compassionate and perceptive, filmmaker Stolman also manages to capture the parents’ hopes and frustrations. As Truong’s mother shows the holes that Truong has made in the walls at home, she maintains a smile, though her voice quavers at times. Stolman makes clear that the parents face financial burdens, compounded by an underfunded public school system ill-equipped to support special-needs children and young adults.

Dialogue on Disability, an initiative founded by WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies in 2003, celebrates people with differing abilities and promotes a more inclusive community. Presenting a week’s worth of TV and radio specials, news reports, and interviews on WXXI’s daily talk show, Connections with Evan Dawson, the initiative is designed to encourage community discussion about the perspectives and abilities of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Dialogue on Disability runs January 25-31.

For a complete list of programs and other offerings, visit WXXI.org/dod. Dialogue on Disability is a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies - in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. The initiative is supported by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation with additional support from The Golisano Foundation.

 

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