The little mermaid: How swimming helped 4-year-old with rare form of Autism feel at home

By  | 

Friday, June 21, 2019
News 12 First at 5

MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- 4-year-old Zella Eichenberger has a rare condition that keeps her from walking or talking, but that doesn't keep her from doing the one thing she really loves.

Zella is the fourth of Amanda and Jake Eichenberger's five children. She has ADNP Syndrome, a rare genetic form of Autism.

"It has to do with the ADNP gene, which is like a neuroprotective gene. So basically hers got messed up upon conception. In her case it's a nonhereditary genetic issue," explained mom Amanda.

Zella is one of only 220 people in the world with ADNP Syndrome. It's hard for her to do everyday things, like walk and talk, But she's right at home in the water.

Amanda and Jake discovered their daughter's hidden love through a Facebook group for parents of children with ADNP Syndrome.

"We found out from the support group that these kids are many times obsessed with music and water," Amanda said.

And Zella is no exception. She's been swimming for three years now, and Amanda says her cognitive development has significantly improved as a result.

"She finally would do things in the water that we could never get her to do on land."

Zella has been swimming on her own for a little over a month now, and for her, learning and development have never been so relaxing.

Amanda and Jake actually built a pool in their backyard to help Zella, and Amanda said it has completely changed their daughter's life.

Zella's parents and physical therapist say they hope she will be walking on her own very soon.​ We can't wait to see her thrive.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.