Thursday, March 26, 2015

Co Swim School: The Guppie and the Pilot Fish

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Maybe it was just chance.  Maybe it wasn't.  During a quest to seek out touch up paint I found myself at the closest paint store to our home.  Sherwin Williams only 2 stop lights away.    Almost 7pm at night, the lights next to the paint store lit up like a large neon blinking lights - okay they didn't blink but in my mind the sign grabbed so much pull of my attention that I felt compelled to just go in.  Explore it as an option for Luke to do swim lessons I thought.  The small space told me it must be a very small pool to be positioned into a strip mall like that.   But I was very wrong.  Triple the size of Noah's warm water pool, I was simply in awe.  The office attendant was lovely and polite.  I had neither child with me, so it was easier for to feel out questions without scaring them off with a visual of a child in a wheelchair.   It was really busy, and looked very popular with other parents in the community.   I asked first about lessons, pricing and availability for Luke, then figured I had nothing to lose by mentioning Noah.   Their pool was certainly appealing to me, as it's heated between 90-92 degrees and salt water.   And with Noah's contact allergies to the chlorine at his warm water therapy pool I thought it might just be a good option for him.   The young lady took down my information, and said she'd check with the owner and get back to me about including Noah.   I kind of expected it to be a giant no.   Noah's physical challenges are great and had the potential to scare off any chances of swim school. 

But much to my surprise, they agreed to let Noah attend, and no less placing him with a swim instructor experienced with children who had special needs.  Ironically, I'd learn much later that the owners themselves, had their own child with special needs and worked teaching with an emphasis with special needs children.   How lucky could I get? 

Because Noah needed a lot of hands on attention, we had to opt for a private class for him, which really great.  And we enrolled Luke into his first set of classes.  Everyday for the first two weeks, to get his feet wet so to speak.  Luke entered as a Guppie, who will be soon transitioning to a Clownfish, and Noah, well I gave him his own little fishy title of Pilot Fish - fitting because of his love of airplanes and because he's swimming alongside his instructor, Mr. Andrew.

Noah has been doing wonderfully, he's excited and looks forward to it each week.  The swim school even has embraced Noah's physical needs and ordered him some adaptive swim devices, and are working on building a changing table to assist him with his needs.   Mr. Andrew is just fabulous with Noah.  I knew almost instantly that he was a perfect match.  Mr. Andrew has a soft patience about him, natural caregiving presence and is really receptive to Noah's needs.  He's also very complimentary of all the little things Noah can do himself like how he kicks his legs alternating in the water.  And he's got the strength to handle Noah when he gets excited and wants to arch backwards.

Luke is almost at the end of his first two weeks - with one day left to go, before he transitions to once a week.  His first day was rocky and within his first five minutes in the pool found himself chasing after a toy that had drifted and landed at the bottom of the pool trying to chase after it requiring full rescue by a lifeguard.   Certainly made my heart stop, and flashes of every special needs child  I know with disabilities related to near-drowning come to my mind.  They got him up quickly and he didn't cough.  He looked stunned, confused and petrified.   The next day came with tears, and tremendous apprehension.   By the third day he was over his fears but then onto other group complications.   Luke likes to splash.   And by splash I mean a lot.  And often without following the instructor's command to stop.  We're working on it, and coaching him a lot at home.  We are reassured that he isn't the only child that has splashed.  But at the same time it sucks that it's my child doing the splashing at the current moment.   And I kind of feel that if I'm already the elephant in the room with a child in a wheelchair, that my typical child will gain a reputation for being defiant to the rules.   I could just strike out twice - despite my best efforts to try to blend in with all the other parents.  And you always worry people are going to think it's reflective of the job you are doing parenting.   I have no idea what the other parents in Luke's class are thinking, but part of me thinks they are counting down the days until their children don't have to endure my child's splashing.
Luke while the least skilled in his class, tries hard to float.  This is his first exposure to a group of children and the first time he's ever been even near a swimming pool.  He's only played with two other children around his age in his entire life for maybe an hour each time at best.  Socially I think Luke is doing well with others.  But I've noticed his strong desire to put his classmates first.  He points to who he thinks should be next to swim, leaving himself last.  If you didn't know Luke you'd think he was doing this because he was scared, but he's not.  He's grown comfortable with the water despite his rough first day start.  He's doing it because he wants to put the other children's needs before his own.  Just like he does at home as our entire family unit must place our needs on hold to provide and care for Noah.  At least he's being kind and age appropriate to other typical children - even if he has a compulsive splashing desire.  I really loved Luke's instructor, Mr. Kenton, but yesterday was his last day and he is truly talented and naturally great with relating to small children.  Super sad for me as Mr. Kenton was the first stranger Luke ever hugged. While I love to see people pursuing their dreams and seeking career advancement, I am secretly hoping that he comes back. 

So far it's a pretty quiet 1/2 hour for me, one mom so far has made an effort to talk here and there with small talk.   Remarkably it's the staff there that has been exceptional.  All the office managers address me and both my children by name when we arrive and when we leave, never failing to help me with the door and Noah's wheelchair.  Makes me feel like I'm not invisible.   I have a name, Noah has a name, and Luke has a name.  I'm not just that mom with a child in a in wheelchair or even that child that likes to splash.   I know that most people may not understand that - because unless you experience how really minimally you are noticed, acknowledged or given consideration out in public it's a big deal when someone pays you positive and intentional attention. 

If I could just get Luke to quit splashing things would be pretty perfect.  I am thankful I found Co Swim School - in my backyard no less.  Great group of people.

"When life gets you down do you wanna know what you gotta do?  Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."  Finding Nemo
So keep swimming it is.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.