Rylan Stone Shields Fund

Rylan Stone Shields Fund

From Jodi Powell

We lose so many children with autism to drowning. The rates of children being diagnosed is rising. It’s time to ensure that the services needed to meet the rise in autism are readily available.

Support this campaign

Subscribe to follow campaign updates!

More Info


July 12, 2017 “Yesterday my son unlocked a door, broke through a gate and drowned in the pool. I didn’t get to him on time. I tried until the paramedics arrived. They took him to the hospital and worked on him for 50 minutes. He didn’t survive.” Jennifer Risch, Rylan’s mom.

July 22, 2017 “I feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of a well, curled up in the fetal position. I can’t escape this. I can’t close my eyes to block out the visuals and I can’t cover my ears to block out my thoughts. I can’t sleep. I have to force myself to eat. I don’t want to be alone and I can’t stand being around people. I swing from manic to devastated so fast I can’t keep up. So I switch to autopilot. My beautiful son is buried in the ground and I have to keep going. I have to accept that he is gone but I can’t. I hated his autism. I hated that he was so tormented by his own brain but I loved him. I miss him so much and I’m so angry with myself. I let the world make me feel like I had to fix him. I spent so much time doing that. I wish I could tell him that I’m sorry. That he was perfect. It was the world that wasn’t good enough for him. That’s what needed to be fixed.” Jennifer

“We lose so many children with autism to drowning. The rates of children being diagnosed with rising. It’s time to ensure that the services needed to meet the rise in autism are readily available. If I had access to a swim instructor who was qualified to teach my son, I wouldn’t have hesitated to get him involved. Unfortunately, the access wasn’t there, and the worst happened.” Jennifer Risch, when asked what you would like to come from this tragedy.

In his memory, children will get these lifesaving skills. We have an amazing angel guiding us on this part of the Special Fishie journey. What we do can not be shared in one location. What we do needs to be done everywhere, for everyone no matter finances or location. We can and will make it happen!

Drownings happen because most instructors fail the ones that aren’t “typical” learners. Most are stuck in their ways of teaching and not able to see that all children are different and therefore learn differently.

Drownings are silent.

Drownings the number one cause of death in children 4 and under.

Drownings number one cause of death for children with special needs throughout childhood!

As we take our child to a lesson and watch as they “fail”. Teachers say they can’t be taught. Parents, we believe them.

This is not true! Every child is teachable. 

Even though many can’t talk, they still communicate with their eyes, hands, body, attitude and facial expression. We have to be humble and open enough to hear what they are saying.

That is what sets Special Fishies apart from all other swim programs out there. Each student that we meet is a brand-new experience. We get to find the key to unlock their freedom together. By freedom I mean not just safety but real freedom! Children on the Autism spectrum, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder and any other childhood disorder that affects judgment and safety are drawn to water. Water is not only a physical attraction but an attraction physiological as well. For a child on works differently.

The vestibular system is an incredible system your body has. It’s basically that tells your body where it is in space in relation to gravity. When you swim your vestibular system is challenged in a different way than it is on land. A child that feels disconnected out of water finds a connection with their bodies in the water. A connection they instinctively crave. Swimming is a sensory seeker dream place. Lowers anxiety and produces more serotonin. A child after a swim session is more focused, attentive and happy which carries over through their day.

The First Step

Special Fishies has been asked to collaborate with a new non-profit, A.W.A.K.E.N Project. We will be able to travel up to Kern County, CA for retreats on a quarterly basis. Here is a description of these amazing retreats:

Annie Ybarra, I am the President and co-founder of the recently The A.W.A.K.E.N Project. My team and I create revitalizing holistic healing retreats for children on the spectrum and their families. Through a specialized transformational nutrition plan and various therapies as well as treatments we strive to bring significant and demonstrable healing to children on the spectrum, and an ultimate rejuvenation for parents that is so badly needed.


This venture is one in the line of many to come. We plan on partnering with such as the JCC and/or YMCA and facilities to make these lessons available to everyone everywhere.

We plan on monthly park playdates to educate public on drowning prevention at adaptive playgrounds all over California and the West, just to start!

Special Fishies has also invited to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times in Mountain Center, California next year.

The Second Step

We are making an ebook and video series that parents and teachers can get to teach their own child/student.

We will be offering Facetime/Skype sessions for parents and teachers to Once someone goes through training or takes a Fishie class they become a part of the Fishie family. Together we can make a difference and stop the drownings! One life saved is one family that won’t be broken forever.

We need donations for travel expenses, learning tools, education supplies, and help all these programs off the ground. It takes a village and we need ours to make n happen.

Help us take Special Fishies Statewide and with YOUR help, we WILL!

Campaign Wall

Join the Conversation

Sign in with your Facebook account or

Help Jodi raise $25,000 by making a donation.