Lessons in Asperger’s #1
Pudding has been swimming with her instructor twice weekly for 6 months now. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the teaching profession who so perfectly encapsulates the balance between pushing a child, and being sensitive to her needs.This instructor has a knack for teaching kids who haven’t done well in other swim schools, including other kids with special needs.
Pudding adores her.
I made it clear from the outset that the instructor should feel free to use a zero tolerance policy when it came to not paying attention during the lesson. Getting distracted could have serious implications in the water, so our alternative was to warn Pudding that if she wasn’t listening, she would have to sit out of the pool.
Of course, Pudding’s neurological mix of ADHD and ASD make it very difficult to maintain her focus all the time. There are many distractions, both in and out of the pool, which make 20 minutes seem like an awfully long time. Inevitably, some days Pudding gets put out of the pool, given time to get herself back together, then allowed to swim again. Her instructor never minds, because it seems like even on those days when it is hard for her to focus, she is swimming well. Some days she swims well, some days she listens well. We take either as a good day.
Yesterday, she did both. She listened to every direction, and followed it beautifully. For the first time ever, Pudding out-performed her typically-developing peers. It was one of those beautiful, wondrous days when all the efforts my girl puts in paid off. And her teacher and I got to bathe in that glory too.
What really made me smile, however, was that after all this time of getting to know Pudding (and other children on the spectrum), there are still some ways in which the instructor is learning.
At the start of the lesson yesterday, Pudding led her friend down the steps of the pool, rather than sitting in the usual place to begin. Oh my goodness- it was so cute- but not following the rules, so her teacher was forced to intervene, albeit smilingly:
Girls, where are you going?
The other girl stopped in her tracks, and dutifully turned around and returned to sit at the side of the pool. But I knew, I knew what was going to happen next. Because I’ve learned lesson #1 in speaking with an Asperger child: Never ask a question unless you want a direct and honest response.
I watched knowingly as Pudding continued on her merry way, only to respond to her teacher:
I’m going down the steps.
We all burst out laughing. Lesson #1, my friend. Don’t worry, there is plenty more she has to teach us, just as long as we are always willing to learn.