Schoolboy, eight, with Tourette’s in swimming challenge

Eight-year-old Lucas McKeown and his swim instructor Paul Murphy
Eight-year-old Lucas McKeown and his swim instructor Paul Murphy

An eight-year-old who suffers from Tourette’s will take part in sponsored swim to raise both funds and awareness.

Lucas McKeown was diagnosed at age six with Tourette Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder that includes vocal and motor tics and an array of co-occuring conditions. For Lucas this also includes a diagnosis of autism.

Lucas and his swimming instructor Paul Murphy, from Seaspuds Swimming in Belfast, plan to swim for a total of 100 lengths.

When he started lessons nearly two years ago, Lucas was too anxious to even get a drop of water on his face. Paul gently coached and encouraged him from those first splashes, and he’s now ready and able to take on this feat to help raise awareness for Tourette and other children and families in need.

“It’s a great pleasure for me to help out this wonderful charity that is so close to the heart of one of my wee swimmers,” said Paul, who is excited about the Swim-A-Thon, especially having watched Lucas change over time as he gained confidence in the water.

“He is turning into a fantastic swimmer,” he said.

“Swimming is a sport I’ve loved all of my life and it’s great for children who have disabilities like Lucas’. There’s something so calming about being in and under the water.”

Tourette Alliance chairperson Suzanne Lavery said she’s excited to see how far Lucas has come and is herself inspired to know other children with Tourette Syndrome might benefit from similar instruction.

“For Lucas, who has so much adversity from his Tourette, including anxiety and sensory issues, to have been able to achieve so much with the support of Paul, it’s truly incredible,” she said.

Lucas and Paul’s Swim-A-Thon will take place on April 9.