Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swimming Lessons, Asperger's, and Awkwardness

A kid with Asperger's Syndrome isn't always the most coordinated kid in the world. A lot of the time their movements come out just plain clumsy and awkward. At least this is the experience we have had with our oldest son with AS.

When MJ was younger he was constantly tripping and falling when he ran. He has walked on his toes since I can remember, and it does not help with his coordination much. Yes, we tried physical therapy and casting and constant reminders (which we still do), yet, this boy is set to walk on his toes! So frustrating sometimes!

Anyway, MJ's balance isn't always the best, and his reflexes don't respond as quickly as one would like, and so it kind of put a damper on anything sports related. Maybe that's why he hates sports so much. We tried him in T-Ball, Soccer, and Gymnastics, but he hated them all. He was either too afraid of heights or afraid to jump and climb, or he just couldn't connect with a ball in time to enjoy it.

So what if he doesn't do well in sports we thought. He doesn't have to. Although, one thing we knew he did have to learn was swimming. Yep. Swimming lessons. There was not a choice for this one. While I don't care if I have any Olympic swimmers, I at least want each of my kids to be able to swim well enough for safety purposes.

So, we enrolled MJ in swimming lessons way back when he was around 5 years old.

It did not go well. Well, maybe the 1st year he was OK, just getting used to the water and all, but then when we tried the next few years it was not good.

At 6 and 7 years old, MJ was still in the basic beginner level. At 8 years old they tried to move him up to the next level where he just about drowned and it was so traumatizing for him that he didn't want to take lessons ever again.

At 9 we tried again at a private pool. Still, things were not going too well. OK, I lied, this is when he finally mastered the back float and the back "monkey airplane shoulder" thing. Hey, I suppose he could just float on his back and not drown, but he still couldn't tread water, he couldn't do any kind of front swimming besides doggy paddling. Hmm....

OK, this summer MJ is 10 years old. Now I'm thinking back to when I was 10 and I don't think I could swim any better, but kids now a days are more advanced. At least where we live. Most kids by age 8 already know how to swim and can swim across a pool. (How do they do that?!) I mean people are putting their kids in swimming lessons even before they are out of diapers!

Anyway, back to the point---Micah is 10 years old and needs to learn how to swim, but I've got to put him in "Beginning Level" swimming lessons once again because he cannot tread water and he cannot do any front crawl or swim forward for so many feet (whatever they require).

So, yeah, my poor little 10 year old that has to go be in a class full of 6 and 7 year olds who can swim better than him.......(Thank goodness he is short for his age, and thank goodness for his Asperger's that makes him more unaware of social things to even notice or care that he is older!)

So, how would he do?

I've sat for 2 weeks again watching and hoping while MJ half drowns in the water. Will he ever get it? I know he is trying, but it's like his movements just aren't as flowing as the other kids, and while they are gliding and floating, he is sputtering and sinking. It's been 3 years with him in this same level, and I don't think he is ready to move up.

He came to me a couple of days ago crying that he was just scared and he couldn't do it and he didn't want to continue swimming lessons.

Now, what do I tell the kid? It's not really a choice to learn or not, but what if he just can't get it? I mean, as a swimmer I totally suck. Really. I think I never got it either. I think I got to his level in swimming and never got past it. EVER. Sure, if someone throws me into a pool I can get to the side, but I can't do the freestyle, or backstroke, or dive hardly. I can barely tread water for very long. I suppose he can avoid water his whole life.....but how will that help. He's got enough social problems as it is not needing to add "can't swim" to the list.

I told him to not be scared, that the teachers and life guards are there to help him, and just to try his best. Just try. You can do it. Talk to the teacher, ask for help.

On the last day I finally saw MJ jump in the water and swim the width length of the deep end pool somewhat front crawl swimming to the other side. He didn't stop. He didn't drown, he didn't even doggy paddle. He made it! Hooray! Maybe he was finally getting it!

Well, today was the last day of swimming lessons when they evaluate your child and tell you what level they should do next time. And what did they say?

Yep, still not passed. Poor kid will have to repeat this level yet again next year when he is 11 years old!

But, you know, this is all dumb I think. MJ doesn't care that he is 10 and can't swim while all these other kids can. So what! So what does it matter that a younger kid can swim better. So? He is getting better and things are finally connecting. He just needs practice.

I wish I could have the mind of an Aspie just once. All us "normal" people are always so worried about matching up to everyone else and doing what is considered socially acceptable. Someone with Asperger's doesn't make sense of it or even notice the differences. Sometimes I think we could all be a little better if our minds were wired with a bit of that Asperger wiring.

Well, here's to another many many more years of swimming lessons!