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Friday, April 12, 2024

Diveheart: Stories from the Heart – Diving on the autism spectrum


I met Kristina Jacobson years ago at one of our Diveheart Scuba Experience programs. I discovered that she was born in Russia and adopted when she was two-and-a-half by a loving Naperville couple, Karen and Rich Jacobsen. 

What’s more, I learned that Kristina was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and she later was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

Being on the autism spectrum proved to be a challenge for her in school. Kristina said that she’d struggled with traditional classes like math and science, but excelled at natural world type education which is why she felt attracted to scuba diving.

After Kristina experienced Diveheart, she said that she took to it like a fish to water. And after I’d watched her, I knew she truly was a natural. 

She told me with autism, she’d always had trouble finding her place in school and in society in general. She felt that she was always the weird kid in school and admitted that some kids were cruel, especially when they didn’t understand the differences in someone who is not only different, but someone with autism. 

With Diveheart, Kristina felt as though she’d finally found her place, her people. She said that she felt like she fits in.  

Her parents, Rich and Karen, have been amazed by the transformation that has occurred with Kristina since she began participating in Diveheart programs. 

Karen, who is a nurse, said that she couldn’t even put Kristina’s positive transformation into words.

On their first adaptive scuba trip with Diveheart, Rich said that Kristina became more independent and found friends who had common interests. Karen felt that everyone with Diveheart was welcoming and inclusive.

Rich added, “Diveheart has been better than any therapy we’ve tried.” 

Kristina has finally found her tribe. 

For more information about Diveheart programs, visit www.diveheart.org.

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Jim Elliott
Jim Elliotthttp://www.diveheart.org
Jim Elliott left a successful career in the media business with the Tribune company to start the Downers Grove-based nonprofit Diveheart in 2001 to help individuals with disabilities through adaptive scuba and scuba therapy. For more info, visit www.diveheart.org.


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