My son Surya is autistic but he enjoys swimming more than any other activity. His journey with swimming started by chance when he was four years old. He was having a very eventful session with the Special Educator and she suggested that he should learn swimming as it would help to keep him calm. I found a place with a relatively small swimming pool and spoke to the instructor. I informed him about my son’s problems and melt downs. He told me that we could start when other children had their Exams in the month of March. He also informed me that it would cost me more than the usual fees as he would train Surya, one on one. I agreed and the journey began.
On the first day I strapped my little boy in a bright yellow life jacket and sent him to start his lessons. I was horrified as I watched the Coach carry him and remove his jacket, replacing it with a small float tied around his tiny waist. As soon as Surya entered the water his face reflected awe and happiness . The Coach started moving Surya's hands and feet. At first he started wriggling and squirming but slowly he stopped resisting. In the first week Surya managed to swim with the float. In the second week his Coach slowly started holding Surya and removing his float when he was swimming at the shallow end of the pool. His Coach would support his abdomen on his palm not allowing him to go under and continue to prod him to move his hands and legs and reach for the steps of the pool. The effort was too much and Surya decided it was enough. He got out of the pool and ran around it . Two life guards caught him and returned him to the Coach. The next three weeks he turned into a slippery little eel, squirming his way out of the instructor’s hands, kicking him away, crying and asking for the float and finally running around the pool.
In the fourth week Surya started paddling and performing an awkward crawl in the water without the float. Whenever he got tired , he would swim behind his Coach and hitch a ride on his back. It was a very funny sight. He went from resisting an activity to learning it and enjoying it. Unfortunately the summer vacations began and the pool turned into a noisy crowded place filled with children. His Coach asked me to return twenty days prior to Diwali vacations. In the next twenty sessions, I saw my son turning into a confident child. He swam independently smiling at his coach, took a shower when he came home and gobbled up all that was placed before him. He was more relaxed and attentive and sat through the sessions with his Special Educator.
Here is a list of things to do when you put your child for swimming lessons:
1) Talk to your pediatrician and keep medications for cold , cough , ear pain , stomach cramps and itchy eyes.
2) In case of a history of seizures speak to your neurologist.
3) Inform the Coach very honestly about your child without withholding any information.
4) Only select a Coach with patience and persistence even if you have to pay more.
5) Be willing to give the child breaks and don’t speed up his learning process.
6) Finally try not to look anxious when you are sitting by the poolside.
7) Provide valuable inputs to the Coach regarding your child as and when necessary.
8) Reward your child with all his favourite food when he finishes his session.
9) Ensure he does not swim on a full stomach. Let me know about your experience in the comment section