Saturday, June 19, 2010

Swimming Along The Autism Spectrum - Choosing the Freestyle

Here is a picture of the four of us.  This was the last time we swam in my parents pool in CA.  It became too hard to maintain and so they filled it in and turned it into a putting green.  Golf is great but I cherish the memories in that pool!

Hello Aspierations visitors and blog friends!

With the first official day of summer coming upon us, it's about time for some warmer weather here in Washington state.  When we first moved here from California almost 3 years ago, I really wanted to find a house with a swimming pool.  It turns out that in Vancouver, WA and probably a large portion of Washington, that isn't so easy to find.

It rains here a fair amount and I guess many of the people that choose to raise their children here aren't so concerned with maintaining a swimming pool when there are natural pools of water outside quite frequently.  Although the house we ended up picking out did not have a pool, I still someday would love to have one.

Until then, we do have this for those particularly hot days!

Oh yes, we also have a Slip and Slide.  I had a yellow one of those when I was a kid and I recall more slipping than sliding.  I used to call it the big banana, because you'd peel onto it.  (Ba-Da-Bing, Ba-Da-Boom!)

Remembering my childhood days of charm and grace, I haven't dared the backyard one yet. Aside from the fact, it's made for kids, I figured I'd save the broken bones for teaching the boys to snow ski!  :-) 

Since we won't be having a pool anytime soon, there is fortunately a really nice community center nearby that has a super pool for the kids. It has a lap pool and great areas for lessons, a fairly decent waterslide, a lazy river and an aquatic play area for the little ones.  The pool is indoors which shouldn't seem odd to most, but having grown up in California with lots of sunny days, it still seems bizarre to me to go inside a building to go swimming, especially if it's on a very rainy day!

Our boys really love the water, whether it be a bathtub or a pool and we think it's imperative they know how to swim so Justin has been taking lessons here off and on for the past couple of years. Two years ago, shortly after Ryan's autism diagnosis, Ryan took a Mommy & Me class (so FUN, we loved it together), a Daddy & Me class and now he has progressed to his own class with preschoolers where he can flirt up a storm!

Ryan is the second kiddo in line. He is the only boy in a class filled with girls and he loves it!!

Although the boys absolutely love the water once they're in, the coordination it takes to learn to swim has been a bit of a challenge thus far.  We are so very proud of Justin and how far he has come in just the last few lessons.  John has been attending with him and tells me that his backstroke is coming along and he's now learning the breaststroke.  John used to be on a competitive swim team growing up so its really neat to see him share the love of the water with our sons.

The local Parks & Rec has great inclusion programs and we've always been very lucky finding instructors who are open to working in the water with children with Autism and Asperger's.  At this point, the boys have always been in typical swim classes but we let the instructors know in advance about the boys being on the spectrum and what to possibly expect.

Of course that doesn't always mean there won't be surprises.  I remember during the Mommy and Me class where Ryan always wanted to drink the pool water so I had to hold him in such a way that he wouldn't quickly grab a big gulp. It was awkward indeed but saved some tummy upsets!

The biggest surprise to date was when Ryan's class was taking turns jumping into the pool to their instructor.  Ryan was really excited and very anxious to take his turn.  The little girl in front of him was much more hesitant and so Ryan took the initiative to fix that issue and pushed her into the pool!  As Justin would say, OMG!!!!  I wasn't there at the time or I would have been mortified.  (I may have inappropriately laughed first.  I certainly did afterwards when the story was retold.)  John DID see the incident and well... what can you do except apologize profusely and hope that the little girl's Mom didn't see what happened.   Fortunately we worked with Ryan and the situation hasn't repeated itself.  (Cross your fingers!!!)

Ryan is a child with relatively no fear and for a parent, that is terrifying.  He has an extremely high threshhold for pain and his senses are heightened in certain areas.  If he's hurt, he won't always tell us. So he's also the kind of kid that might just rush and jump into a pool without any thought about what comes next. 

A lot of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders are drawn to the water and I have to say personally, it is incredibly relaxing and therapeutic for me to be in the water, whether it be a cool pool or a hot tub.  Speaking of which, if you're ever in Palo Alto, CA, you have to check out Room #8 at Watercourse Way.  It's splendid!

Sometimes I take a look at my journey over the past year and my boys' journey over the past two and I feel like we're each swimming along the spectrum in our own unique way.  

Sometimes we swim the backstroke because there are days we definitely move backwards. Some days it is the crawl because we inch forward slowly.  Sometimes it is all you can do to just tread water and make it through the day. Most of the time it is freestyle because we tend to do our own thing and make our own way from one end of the pool to the other.  

And occasionally.... on those very special days, it is the butterfly stroke, where we come out of our cocoons, spread our wings and transform in a big leap forward to a brand new accomplishment or positive life change!

Whether you prefer freestyle or butterfly or you find yourself doing the backstroke or treading water, it certainly doesn't hurt to take the advice of Dori from Finding Nemo no matter what kind of day you find yourself a part of.

Keep on swimming, keep on swimming!!

Hope you have an awesome weekend!


  1. Love the swimming analogies. I have children on the spectrum as well and some days we swim with the current and some days we swim against.

  2. As Karen wrote, "Sometimes we swim the backstroke because there are days we definitely move backwards. Some days it is the crawl because we inch forward slowly. Sometimes it is all you can do to just tread water and make it through the day. Most of the time it is freestyle because we tend to do our own thing and make our own way from one end of the pool to the other"..

    What a great analogy! This is a truth for life whether you are on or off the spectrum.
    I just love the picture of John sitting in the kids pool! Now that is truly being a hands on parent! :-) June

  3. Hello!
    Thanks anonymous and June for your support! Glad the analogies make some sense to others. Sometimes I wonder if these are just things I see in my own head. :-)

    Ahh, the John in the pool photo! He is totally a hands-on parent and a great sport! He laughed when he saw that I had included the photo in my blog. (At least I think that was laughter...)