Dean On Campus Blog

Students “Making Waves” for special needs kids in Kingston

By Ben Frid (Meds 15)

My name is Ben Frid, and I’d like to tell you why I Make Waves.

“It’s the highlight of his week!  He’s always asking me when he can go swimming (or more often “go play sharks”) with Daniel.  He talks about swimming at the Queen’s pool almost every day, and when there was no lesson last week because of reading week, he was positively beside himself.  He used to be afraid of the water and now he adores swimming!”


Absent: Jenna Dickson, MEDS ’16
Rebecca Afford, Life Sciences ’15









That was just one parent’s testimonial of Making Waves, but most parents describe a similar situation with their little swimmers in our program.  And if those reports weren’t evidence enough, it’s easy to tell there’s something special going on when a small boy or girl runs with elated face and arms at maximum wingspan to embrace their instructor they only met 2 weeks ago.


Making Waves is a program whose purpose is to teach swimming lessons to children with special needs.  If the population of children we work with doesn’t sound very specific, that’s intentional.  We accept any child between the ages of 3 and 15 with a mental disability into our program, and pair them with a qualified university student to serve as their instructor.  Many of these children have attempted typical group lessons, but these lessons generally don’t meet their needs.  When parents seek out private 1-on-1 lessons, they’re often discouraged to find out that these lessons typically cost around $40 per hour.  Because Making Waves employs volunteer instructors and has a very lean organizational design, we can keep our costs very low, and at $25/semester, our lessons cost about 5% of equivalent lessons.  It’s an incredible idea (that I certainly won’t attempt to take credit for), and that’s been reflected in the rapid growth of individual chapters, as well as the start-up of new chapters at universities all across Canada.  Making Waves generates a lot of value for communities, and in return these communities have shown the program a lot of support.

I’m currently a second year medical student at Queen’s, and despite having a fairly busy schedule, Making Waves remains one of the most important things I do.  My involvement began while living in Ottawa in 2009.  A good friend of mine from my undergraduate years at McGill, Matthew Morantz, had started the program in Montreal and was eager to expand it to other university campuses around Canada.  When he approached me about starting a chapter in Ottawa, I jumped at the chance.  Two years later, when I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to Queen’s School of Medicine, the fact that Queen’s didn’t have a Making Waves chapter yet was at the forefront of my mind.  With the help of some of my colleagues in medical school, in particular Aaron Wynn and Alexis Jozefacki, I started the Kingston chapter of Making Waves in Fall 2011.  We have seen the club grow to about 40 children, and we have high hopes we can serve even more of the local population.


Communities benefit from Making Waves, and we have an economic impact through the accessibility to the program via our low-cost model.  Our instructors are thrilled to be a part of what we’re doing, and we unfortunately cannot even take on all of the eager and compassionate students who apply to join our mission.  For me, however, it is the huge smiles, the euphoric high fives, and the proud “Mom!  Mom!  Did you see that?!”s that motivate me to continue Making Waves.

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7 Responses to Students “Making Waves” for special needs kids in Kingston

  1. Richard van Wylick says:

    Congratulations Ben, Alexis,Aaron and colleagues. What a wonderful story!

  2. Mary Solomon says:

    Congratulations! As a mother of a daughter with autism, I know the importance of these programs and how the children involved and their families appreciate the time and talents of those conducting the program. It also brought fond memories of a placement I did with a special education class as part of my Queen’s physiotherapy program. I was doing my thesis on Mainstreaming in schools and the role of PT. At that time, mainstreaming was still a dream and PT in school – regular schools did not exist. The teacher of this class was unusual since she was a PT who became a teacher. Ten years after I graduated I was a school program therapist through Homecare. I have been blessed to volunteer with Special Olympics and Track 3 skiing and therapeutic horseback riding and I say to the students in the Making Wave Program that these will be some of the best memories you will have in your life and your impact on the kids is monumental.

    Mary Solomon Rehab ’77

    • reznickr says:

      Mary, thanks for sharing your story and for helping to inspire our students.

      Much appreciated, especially from a Faculty alumna, such as yourself.


  3. Brian Hennen, Meds '62 says:

    Hi Dean Reznik,
    Great to hear about Making Waves and the involvement of Queen’s meds students with persons with developmental disabilities. I don’t think a lot of Queen’s folk know that Queen’s is leading in UG and Fam Med residency programs when it comes to teaching about developmental disabilities. The only continuing third year Family Medicine residency program in developmental disabilities in Canada! And the Family Medicine department has made developmental disabilities a priority for development. Students supporting the Making Waves program is another demonstration of leadership.

    • reznickr says:


      I agree we could do a better job of publicizing just how much emphasis Queen’s puts on the issue of developmental disabilities. Thanks for underscoring the great work being done in the Department of Family Medicine as well.


  4. Ben Frid says:

    I would like to personally thank Queen’s Medicine for the continual support in these and other efforts of medical students at this school. The coverage we have received from these stories has helped us increase our child enrolment both in the current and future sessions, and I find it a shining example of students working with administration to achieve a common goal.

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