POV: Swim Team

POV: Swim Team

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 10:00pm - 11:00pm

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 17, 2019 at 10 p.m. 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. The film wll also air on Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 11 p.m.

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.

This  program is part of Dialogue on Disability, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives and abilities of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. During the week-long initiative, which runs January 14 through January 21, 2019 WXXI presents special programming on TV, radio, and at the Little Theatre.

Dialogue on Disability is made possible through support from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation. The partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies is supported by the Golisano Foundation and Move to Include, a project designed to build a more inclusive community by inspiring and motivating people to embrace different abilities and include all people in every aspect of community life.

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