Like most parents I think my children are amazing.Not in a “they’re perfect/the next Einstein” kind of way, (they are plainly NOT), it’s small, quiet, awe of their burgeoning personalities and abilities. It might surprise some of you that in general it is Jacob that evokes the biggest feelings of delight in me, after all he stopped meeting conventional milestones in his first year. His milestones are more millimetre-stones, and I have to confess that I have absolutely no idea what an “average” child of his age “should” be doing. I stopped looking at the lists of should-be-able-tos a long long time ago in favour of my own book of his achievements.
Fed up of six-monthly development checks by the paediatrician when he was scored against a chart, I started my own book in which I wrote down all the new things he had done that month and what his favourite activities were. This was my happy book, something that allowed me to celebrate my son in the face of an outside world that was smacking me in the face with all the things he couldn’t do.
I wrote this book for a long while, eventually abandoning it a year ago when his development was being more comprehensively (and professionally) recorded by his SN nursery. In a way this book was a saviour of my sanity, it showed me that he was making progress, this made me feel more positive and allowed me to move towards acceptance.
Now we set our own challenges for Jacob, one of which was that I wanted him to be able to start school and have one skill that he would be able to equal his peers in. I decided that this would be swimming. This wasn’t for arbitrary reasons; living near the coast it is an essential life skill, he loves water and I had taken him swimming since he was a baby. His Waterbabies lessons were so inclusive and have left him very confident in water. So, secretly in my head, I decided that by the time he started school I wanted him to be able to swim on his own, with or without armbands.
Making this aim a reality was harder to get going that I imagined. There was no NHS water based therapy available for him despite it being in his physio plan, because he has independent movement. The local leisure centre wouldn’t have him in a group lesson because he needed an instructor in the water with him and so the only option was to pay for him to have 1 to 1 lessons. This is expensive (thank heavens for the DLA money enabling us to give Jacob things that every other child can easily access) and as a result he only goes every other week. Even so, his progress has been amazing. This is despite the fact that the whole sensory experience of the pool is often overwhelming for him, the presence of other children is distracting and exciting and the fact that physical tasks are extremely hard for him. He is almost there:
His swimming instructor loves him and often swims with him for well over the time we’ve paid for
Last week he swam a whole length of a 20m metre pool on his back.
This week he swam 4 lengths of the pool AND his instructor took him down to just 1 ring arm band on each arm.
Our biggest boy is almost swimming without any flotation aids at all and who knows, come September he may not just be equalling his peers he may have passed them by, something I never thought I’d say!