Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘swimming

Wordless Wednesday 14 Nov 12

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Wordless Wednesday 04 Jul 12

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Pudding at the pool

Pudding in her happy place.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Including Pudding

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It had been a long day after another long night.  So long, in fact, that I’m writing about this day in the past historic tense, even though it was today.  Yes, today was that long.

My last task of the day (not really, but my last driving task of the day) was taking Pudding to her swimming lesson.  We go twice a week, and normally I don’t mind taking her.  Seeing her so happy in the water makes up for the inconvenience of going there.  And there is inconvenience.

Sometimes it comes in the form of Cubby, who always feels like he wants to come with us, until we get there and he remembers that sitting on a bench and keeping quiet is the opposite of what he wants to do.  Most times I’ll cave in and take him, but occasionally he chooses to stay with Ms. Leia until Daddy gets home.  Today, thankfully was one of those days, because with a nasty croupy cough, things could have been much, much worse.

Most of the time, the inconvenience comes in the form of driving the mean streets of Johannesburg.  There are all kinds of hazards to deal with, to the point that most days I’m convinced I’ve been sucked into a virtual reality game.  If I’m not avoiding kombi buses as they swerve across the lanes while continuously beeping their horns, I’m trying to avoid the erratic truck in front with about 15 men and building equipment piled into the back, or it could be a mother distracted by her toddler IN THE FRONT SEAT, NO CHILD SEAT OR SEAT BELT!!!

Worst of all, though, are the windscreen washers at the lights in this particular route.  That sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Someone offering to clean your windshield as you wait for the lights to change?  No.  It is an act of aggression.  No matter how you shake your head and say no, one of these guys will pull your wipers up, then soapy water will be sprayed on your clean windscreen.  And then if you don’t pay (because security has advised you to NEVER open your window, or in any way encourage this kind of activity), they will threaten you, try to pull off your wipers so you can do nothing about the fact that you can’t see, the lights are about to change, and the aforementioned erratic drivers are honking at you to move.

But I do it twice a week because Pudding loves it, and I’ve written here and here and here about what swimming means to her, and me by extension.

But today, the longest day after the longest night, the 15 minute journey took 50 minutes.  It had been raining all day, and traffic was even worse than usual.  Even though it was still raining, the windscreen washers were still out.  I managed to avoid an incident this time, but my heckles were up.

Pudding’s lesson is only twenty minutes long, with two boys also on the autism spectrum.  There are other lessons immediately before and afterwards, and it is a tightly run ship.  Even though we’d left the house earlier than usual, we arrived just at the end of the alloted time.  I predicted that Pudding wouldn’t be able to swim, but thought I’d try our luck anyway.

Her teacher graciously allowed Pudding to join the next class.  I wasn’t sure how well she would do.  This class had two other girls and two boys, and they were all neurotypical.  I watched her closely to see what would happen.

“New friends, ” she announced, and didn’t try to touch anyone, even though one girl was wearing a Hello Kitty swimsuit.  So, yes, her attention did wander a couple of times, but perhaps not even as much as usual.

And get this: when the teacher constructed a foam diving board, and had the kids walk and jump off it she…didn’t do the same.  She got down on her bottom and scooched along.  A pretty good method for someone whose balance is challenged and can only jump on the spot, not off something.  I wasn’t the only one who thought so, because Girl in Hello Kitty did likewise.

But then, get this: she did it!  She watched the other kids and imitated them perfectly.  She pushed herself to do something that she has never done before, and I’m pretty sure that was because of her peers in the group.

Now, lately, I’ve been mulling over the idea of inclusion.  Pudding has so far exclusively been educated in autism-specific environments.  There are pros and cons to inclusion, and I’m not certain that it would be The Right Thing for Pudding.  But when I see her step up and take a leap like that, it makes me think I should be ready to do the same.  I’ll write more about why this will be such a battle, but for now, just consider that including Pudding made this long, long day turn out to be not so bad after all.  Still, I’m ready for it to finally be tomorrow.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Wordless Wednesday 18 Jan 12

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 18, 2012 at 11:04 am

Swimming in the Rain

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I like the weather here.  It is warm, intense, and dramatic- just like Pudding.  On Sunday we were in the pool, as we have been most days since she started to swim.  After some time, Cubby tired and Daddy took him upstairs for a nap.  We stayed in the pool, and after a little while, the weather suddenly changed, as it is wont to do here.  The blue skies turned grey.  There was a good chance there would be a storm, as there are most days here in the summer.  The African Storm is much more ferocious than any I’ve witnessed before, but they tend to blow over quite quickly.

It takes pretty dramatic weather to get Pudding out of the pool.  In fact, even with loud claps of thunder, and lightning illuminating the sky, Pudding would just keep wallowing in the pool if I didn’t reinforce bribe her to get out of there.  I felt the first drops of rain, and mentioned this to Pudding.  She wasn’t buying it.

Me: Yes, look, it is raining now.

Pudding: No!  No!  Not raining yet!

The drops get bigger, until she can no longer deny it.

Pudding: Look, Mummy, look at the rain on the pool.

Me: Yes, shall we get out now?

Pudding: No.  Mummy, we need a [sic] umbrella!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

The Mermaid Swims

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I’ve written many times about how alluring water is to Pudding, how she finds peace pouring and bathing in the stuff.  But the problem for my mermaid is safety.  We have a pool, as do many of the homes here.  The number of deaths of foreign service children by drowning used to far exceed those of the general population, and anti-climb fences have reduced those grim statistics in recent years, but for an impulsive child who doesn’t fear the water, and can move a chair to a different room and unlock doors, we can’t afford to take chances.  Every time I looked out at the pool and the potential for danger, my breath was caught as I thought about the potential danger.

This had to be our project over the summer holiday.  The problem is, I’m not the strongest of swimmers.  My own techniques aren’t so great, and it took me a really long time to learn how to swim.  I wasn’t going to be the best teacher.  And Pudding, with her attention problems and sensorimotor challenges, isn’t the easiest of people to teach.  Fortunately, I found a children’s swimming instructor nearby who is also a physiotherapist- a perfect match!  Unfortunately our schedules only permitted four one-on-one sessions.  Still, I hoped to pick up tips from her that we could use at home, now that it is hot enough to go swimming outdoors.

Pudding took to her new teacher instantly, but still had huge problems following her directions and resisting her impulses.  We agreed the most important (and most difficult) task, was to tackle these challenges, by playing to her strengths.  Pudding likes songs and has a great memory, so her teacher adapted rhymes like Humpty-Dumpty to promote safely getting into the water.  By the end of the first lesson, she could doggy paddle a very short distance unaided, and was learning to wait until told to enter the pool.  Okay, she wasn’t so good at that part.

On the second session, Pudding had no interest in repeating her efforts from the week before.  Somebody had found her buoyancy, to our delight!  She adored the feeling of floating on her back, but her vestibular issues kept her from leaning far enough back.  This time her teacher used Pop Goes the Weasel to flip from her front to her back, and then back again.  Things were starting to come together!

That same week we went on an overnight trip to a man-made beach resort/water-park called Valley of the Waves.  Apparently half the country had the same idea.  It was packed and crowded, so instead of relying on her developing water skills, I put Pudding back in her swim vest.  By the time we were all getting swept off our feet by six foot waves, I was glad I made that call.

However, when we returned for her next lesson, she couldn’t find her buoyancy.  The artificial support of the swim vest interfered with her ability to sense when she was floating.  But then, when were we ever discouraged by taking a step back?  (Don’t answer that one).  We moved on to the challenge of submerging her head under water, a task we were able to reproduce every evening when she took a bath.

Wednesday was her last one-on-one lesson.  We’ll move to a small group class with other children with disabilities from next week.  She’ll also be going back to school next week, and I’m not sure how she’ll cope with extra distractions at the end of a busy day.

I knew it was time for me to take that leap off the diving board and continue working on things at home.  That day, while Cubby was taking a nap, we went in our small pool at home.  Just like with her teacher, we practiced all the components, using the same rhymes and rules for safety.  She sat by the side of the pool until we sang the song together to enter.  We played Finding Nemo with the poor old bath toy who no longer floats.  I was more comfortable teaching her, as she was learning.

Then it happened: she swam, unaided, the width of our pool!  She did it again, and again.  We’ve been in that pool together every day since, and she grows stronger every time.  She is a long way from using breaststroke or front crawl, but believe me when I say she has her own grace.  She might have needed a little extra support, and I might have needed to learn how best to give it to her, but this is another huge thing crossed off that list of things she can’t do.  A list that grows shorter every day.

The mermaid swims, which means I can breathe a little easier.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Hope Floats

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I’ve been taking Pudding to an adapted aquatics class on Sundays.  We can’t really afford the added expense of the weekly lesson, but she loves the water.  We’re doing just one session until our community pool opens for the summer.  They recently filled up this pool, so every time we go to the playground, she stares in at the tempting water and begs to go in.  Every time I tell her she can’t yet, but we’ll go on Sunday.  So she moves on to trying to extort a treat from me, but I’m no sucker.  Or so I think.

As usual, we were in a rush to get our things together and get out on Sunday.  Traffic was horrendous, so I was relieved to get to the pool on time.  I helped her strip out of clothes, and into the top part of her swimsuit.  Then I looked for her bottoms.

They weren’t in the bag.

I frantically pulled everything out of the bag.  Nope.  I’d forgotten them.  I couldn’t believe it.

Now I had to tell her.

She listened.  Her little bottom lip pulled south, and her eyes pooled with tears.

“I want to go swim.”

It was calm, but I knew it was just the beginning of a dive into hysterics.

I felt wretched.

“Pudding, Mummy, is so so sorry.  I know how much you wanted to go swimming.  This is all my fault.  I forgot your swimsuit.  We can go home, and then go out for ice cream (sorbet)  as a special treat.  I promise.  Would you like that?”

“I want to go swim.”

I drew pitying looks from every mother in the changing room.  Everyone has done something like this, I felt their empathy.  But I also knew that with a kid like mine, the stakes were higher.  She wasn’t going to get over it.  This was the beginning of the end of the day for us.

And then, one of the volunteer “swim buddies” and angel in a black costume appeared, offering me the use of a borrowed costume.  Pudding snatched it with an unprompted(!) thank you, and I breathlessly wished her as many blessings as I could muster.  Pudding had already stepped into the costume before I had a chance to think about how icky a borrowed costume might be.

We dashed to the class only a couple of minutes late, and Pudding soon returned to where she belongs.  I got my weekly treat of seeing floating happiness.  As I went to thank Pudding’s swim buddy (a different volunteer), she cut me off, and thanked me, saying she had never met anyone who loved being in the water so much as my girl, and it was a pleasure to be with her.

After we got changed, I rinsed and returned the borrowed costume to the life-saving lady.  Pudding thanked her.  The lady asked if she’d had a good time swimming.

“Yes.  And now we get ice cream.  Mummy, let’s get ice cream!  With Cubby.  And Daddy.”

Well, Mummy did mess up, and a promise is a promise.  Can’t help but wonder how those bottoms vanished from the bag though, when everything turned out just how she’d hoped.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 3, 2011 at 7:03 am


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Two kids, one mummy and a swimming pool. Pudding has always loved the water, but has no fear of it. Cubby is brave enough in a kiddie pool where he can stand up, but terrified in the big pool. Usually he won’t allow any part of his head to touch the water, and makes a sorry sobbing sound if I so much as transfer him to my other hip.

So going to the pool without Spectrummy Daddy in tow is a bold move. This is DC in August. It has been a scorcher, and the humidity factor can be unbearable. When we do brave the playground, the mosquitoes ravish my exotic English suck-me skin, the resulting wounds last for weeks.  Yuck.  Stuck indoors all the time, Pudding can’t help but find trouble.  At times I feel like I say nothing but “no” to her.  I’m weighed down from being so negative.  We’d been inside too long, it was time.

We’d had some problems before in getting her to wear her swim vest, but if she put it on back to front, she was fine. It kind of looked like I’d put my special needs child in a straight jacket, but she was happy, safe, and unable to reach the zipper to take it off.  I’m getting used to odd glances coming our way.  Luckily people tend to keep their small thoughts to themselves, which is just as it should be.

Cubby clung on to me the whole time, but there was no crying or screaming. At a few points, when he was splashing around and soaking his mama (which he says properly now!) quite thoroughly, he squealed with delight. Pudding just looked calm and serene, feeling all the lovely sensation of the water.  The pair of them, who have stretched my heart in ways I could never have imagined, were at peace getting what they needed.  I wanted to cherish the time.  I didn’t feel like the mother taking care of her high-needs children.  I was the special guest at this party.  I felt honoured to be in attendance.

After a while, she took to climbing out and jumping back in again, over and over. There didn’t seem to be much purpose to it, but she had the most beatific smile on her face, it must just feel right to her. So often I’ve taken for granted that my senses and my body work just as they should, I’m so fortunate.  I wish she could have that feeling more often.  I wish everybody could.  I’m just glad she gets to have her moments of it, and I get to share them with her.

One time as she took off, she looked at me and gleefully said, “I’m flying!”. My heart soars along with her.  For that one sweltering afternoon, my love, we both were.

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August 24, 2010 at 7:30 am