Taylor MacKenzie sees sports as a great equalizer: when she’s in the water she doesn’t feel any different from other people. In the pool, she says, "Nobody judges me or my disability. It's where I feel happy and can be myself."
Taylor, who has autism and intellectual disabilities, says she can prove her great skills through sports—without saying a word. Her dad agrees that “nobody is judging her or what she has and she is very comfortable” in the pool.
It's been quite a journey for Taylor, who didn't utter her first words until age 5. What inspired her to reach out and communicate? An exhilarating jump into the pool—and how it felt on her "tickle toes."
These days, her friends call her “Smiler" and we can see why. Taylor is especially happy in the pool. But success has not been easy.
Recalls her dad, "Over the years, this swim journey has been as traumatic and challenging as it has been exciting and rewarding, with a constant roller coaster of emotions. She's gone from self doubt to total belief in her own ability, which has got her where she is today...in and out of the water!"
At 15 years old, Taylor will be one of the youngest swimmers at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. She specializes in the freestyle and butterfly stroke—and keeps getting better with every practice session.
Taylor says sports has taught her a lot already. “Sports taught me to learn from disappointments,” she says. “You won't always win or get top marks, but that's okay. Always do your best.”
"It doesn't matter if I'm not perfect or winning every time I race. I feel good if I've done my best.”