Monday, March 7, 2016

Our Adventures with swimming.

Some family are football families. Others are soccer families. Still others are track and field families. Our family is a swimming family!

We however did not start out that way. We attempted to teach our oldest two daughters to swim while they were young but did not get far. Our oldest daughter is autistic and was born terrified of water. With her issues it became too difficult to work with both girls at the same time. As the years passed we made zero progress on the swimming front.  With the older children unable to swim our younger ones never got the chance to learn either. My husband and father were both starting to fret that they would never learn how to swim.

We began our journey towards swimming two years ago when we started homeschooling. We found that the local community college had homeschool swim classes available during school hours as well as summer camp options. It seemed to be a perfect fit for our family.

We showed up with our terrified non-swimmers on the first day and prayed that this would go smoothly. We were EXTREMELY blessed that the college had a paraprofessional on staff to work with special needs children. She had the patience of a saint working with our oldest two girls (our youngest four were still too young for group lessons). With every lesson they made steady progress and slowly increased their stamina and confidence. 

I was shocked when, after 16 weeks and an intensive summer camp workshop, the teacher recommended our oldest daughter for the local Special Olympics swim team! I almost fell over when the coach called and said she had a spot on the team!

It was so amazing that after 9 years of being terrified of water our daughter qualified for a swim team. Granted she had only mastered one stroke and had very little stamina in the water. She however happily got into the water now and was no longer scared of swimming! She was so excited to be chosen to join a swimming team. I think it boosted her confidence to new levels and encouraged her to continue to work hard in the pool.

It is amazing to see the difference 2 years of lessons and patience can make. Our oldest daughter is now 11 yrs old and swimming the 25 meter freestyle in 23 seconds and the 25 meter breast stroke in 20 seconds. She is working on building up her stamina and has begun swimming the 50 meter freestyle and breast stroke in practice.

Our 9 yr old and 6 yr old twins are swimming like little fish and doing amazing in their lessons as well. Our 9 yr old is learning all of the strokes and building up her endurance. Recently one of our twins progressed to swimming without a floatation belt! I will admit I almost had a heart attack watching her swim in 10ft deep water without a floatation item. There are life guards and teachers surrounding the pool so she was completely safe....I am sure you can imagine my anxiety however!

Our second autistic child was also born terrified of water. We did not realize just how terrified until we signed him up for a group lesson with his 6yr old sisters. He made it through a few lessons before they asked me to change him to a mommy and me lesson. He was just too scared and taking up too much of the instructors time. He needed the one on one hands on approach and the only one who could do that was mama.

Our first lesson went very slowly. It took the entire 30min lesson just to get him into the water for the final song. By lesson two he came into the water voluntarily and we even got him to release his death grip on my neck and move to just holding on to my hands. I am excited to see what the remaining lessons bring! Maybe another Special Olympics swimmer?! Who knows!

This experience has definitely reinforced the fact that children are a long term act of patience. Somethings are not going to come easily. They are going to take time, years of practice, and a great deal of patience.

They are tiny little seedlings that need an inordinate amount of  tending and love. With the right tending they will however bear fruit over time.  They will get there Mama! Hang tough and know that those endless practices and repetitions will not last forever. You may even find yourself wanting them back.......

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