Saturday, July 11, 2009


It's been close to a year since I posted about swimming. Last summer, before Joy's number came up on the wait list for the intensive autism therapy she's been getting, we signed her up for lessons at a local swim school, that has a program for kids with special needs whereby if you needed a smaller class size or one-on-one instruction, they'd provide it for the standard non-special-needs price. (Still not cheap, but whatta deal!) Joy did great with the summer session, with a wonderful teacher who really seemed to "get" her. I blogged with glee about the happy report card, on which every skill for the level was marked "Mastered"!

Then we decided to keep going with lessons in the fall. Turned out our wonderful instructor had a summer-only gig, so we were put with another gal who, though well-meaning, did not have that connection with Joy that her predecessor did. Joy had been doing so well with jump-ins. They'd set her up with a staffer behind her to keep her from running, and then the instructor in the water reaching up but not touching her, and Joy would jump in on her own. With the new instructor, though, it almost took a push from behind. Half the session was over before she was willing to jump on her own again.

She made some good progress on floats and submersions. I was chagrined, though, at the report card. Instead of being scored on the next level's report card, she got the same card as the previous session. Only the scores had gone BACKWARD. Instead of reading "mastered" for all the skills as it had in the previous session, suddenly some of the skills were only "developing". When I protested, I was told that after the first session they pretty well promote everyone. But since Joy was still in a class on her own, so could go totally at her own pace without having to worry about keeping up with a class or anything, this time they were scoring it more accurately.

Nice. Not.

We did not sign up for the winter. By then we had a full therapy schedule, plus I had no desire to be dragging in and out of a pool facility having to stuff a wet child into boots and winter coat in zero-degree weather. Plus I was smarting from essentially being told, "we made you feel good the first session with the artifically pumped-up scores, but she didn't really deserve them, so you can stop feeling good now." Bleah.

Anyway, here it is summer again. I tried to take Rose & Joy to the public pool two weeks ago, but we'd scarcely been in the water for 5 minutes before someone pooped in the pool and closed it down. We didn't get another good chance until this past Thursday evening, and the temperature was questionable, only in the high 70s, but Rose really wanted to swim. So we went.

It was a delight.

Joy is so much more confident in the water than she was last time I remember (which may be two years ago, since we didn't do much public-pool last year!) She's taller, stronger, happy to splash around. She doesn't much mind getting a face-full of water, which is actually a bit of an issue because it's a fan-shaped pool where the bottom slopes down from zero at the outskirts to over-her-head in near the center of the fan, and the slope encourages her toward deeper waters. So I had to stay vigilant.

The best part, though, was the jump-ins. I discovered that I could put Joy up on the edge of the fan where the water was a good depth, step back from the wall, count "1-2-3-Jump"... and she would jump in to me with delight! There was only a token barrier behind her, and nobody holding her. We did this over and over, sometimes with Rose at her side but sometimes not (and Rose wasn't holding her at all). Joy only turned to duck under the barrier and run for the grass once, out of twenty or more attempts.

We stayed till her teeth were chattering, maybe a little shorter visit than we'd otherwise have made, but it was a fair trade-off since the cool weather meant that the pool was very sparsely populated and Joy could splash all she wanted without disturbing a soul.

Besides, fewer pool-participants means less chance of bio-accidents...

Sorry, no photos. Maybe if JoyDad accompanies us one of these days, one of us can work the camera while the pool works its magic.

P.S. I'm composing this chez UncleDO and AuntLO -- am in their neck of the woods for a library conference. I like the accommodations! Good coffee, and free unlimited wireless access!


BRatK said...


Is it just me, or is her swimming skill development a similar trajectory to other skills? Like sledding and sommersaults.

Let me see if I can convey my thought...she responds only under specific circumstances (with certain people) when first introduced to an activity. Later, and with some growth and maturation, she shows both readiness and retention from the introduction.

As much as I love water play for everyone, I acknowledge it is an extremely convenience-dependent activity. Going to a pool, changing clothes, perfect weather, accommodating other-swimmers (or fewer).

I wouldn't go to a pool in deep northern winter either.

Anonymous said...

she's doing so well! we're just starting to build back up to last year's skill level, but not quite there yet. fingers crossed for a enough good weather to get in lots of practice!!

mama edge said...

How you kept from flogging the instructor who pooped in your emotional pool. with the fake "Mastered" assessment, is what makes you a better woman than I.

We MUST swim together sometime. Taz is a fish and loves to swim with other kids. Don't suppose Joy could go to a lake?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much they really "pumped up" the scores the first time. I'd be willing to bet that Joy did master those skills last summer and just needed time to get back up to speed this time around. While Rhema has not yet had swimming lessons, it seems like every summer we're starting back at ground zero when we take her to the beach. (And I'm just talking putting her feet in the sand, toes in the water, etc). After several trips, she gets back to where she left off and is having fun again.

So glad Joy had such a fun time!

Maddy said...

This is the first year when all of mine have been afloat and 'relatively' safe. They've always loved the water but swimming, proper swimming, not drowning swimming has always been a bit of a challenge.