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Belfast boy Lucas (8) overcomes fear of water to tackle swimming challenge in aid of Tourette's charity

By Eimear Rabbitte

An eight-year-old boy will take on a challenge most adults would balk at when he tackles a gruelling 100-length swim.

It is a huge achievement for Belfast youngster Lucas McKeown, who only overcame water-related anxieties when he began swimming two years ago.

He was diagnosed at age six with Tourette's Syndrome, a neuro-developmental spectrum disorder that includes vocal and motor tics, and an array of associated conditions, such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Lucas also has Asperger's Syndrome.

He will take on the Swim-A-Thon challenge jointly with his swim instructor Paul Murphy, in aid of the Tourette Alliance.

His proud mum, Christine, said coach Paul has been "amazing" when it comes to helping Lucas with his swimming and his confidence levels.

"Lucas was diagnosed two years ago and he has been doing the swim lessons for the last year and a half.

"He wouldn't even go into the water on the first day, so the difference since then has been huge," Christine told the Belfast Telegraph.

Lucas and Paul, an instructor at Seaspuds Swimming in Belfast, plan to swim for 100 lengths of the pool on a tag-team basis.

"Paul will take over from Lucas when he gets tired for a few lengths so he can build his strength back up," Christine explained. When he began lessons nearly two years ago, Lucas was too anxious to even get a drop of water on his face. However, after much perseverance, and coaching, he is ready to take on the swim to help raise awareness of his condition and of other families in need.

As well as his weekly lesson with Paul, Lucas also enjoys an hour-long weekly lesson with his school, which has had a hugely positive effect on him.

Christine said: "He has his difficult days, but the swimming has been great and he doesn't have as many tics when he is in the water."

While Lucas attends a mainstream school, Christine said a lot of children with Tourette's will have extra help in the classroom, depending on each individual's difficulty.

It's said the nature of the tics which are present in the condition can hinder early diagnosis and access to proper medical and educational interventions.

"We are relatively new and we are doing our best to get it out there so parents and children will know there is support there for them. We are hoping to open a second support centre in Northern Ireland," she added.

  • The Swim-A-Thon will take place at 1.30pm on April 9 at Falls Leisure Centre, Belfast.

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