Learning to swim

The last few months Billy has been really obsessed with swimming. Any time he sees water, some hotels, swimsuits, or anything related to swimming, he begs to go swimming.

Most people would be like "oh, that's awesome, kids love swimming! It's good exercise!" But most kids don't wander off under your nose to do whatever they want, consequences be damned either.

Accidental drowning accounted for 91% of all autism wandering related deaths the last few years. And Billy has to be physically restrained every second he's by a pool lately, because he thinks he can swim (he has had a few successful swimming events with a swim vest on) or because he wants to lay down on the edge (or crouch, yikes!) and splash his hands in the water.

With the warrmer weather coming, and his increased tendency to elope and his strong desire to be independent (he headbutted me in the face to try to walk unaided in a best buy parking lot a few weeks ago, and has been constantly trying to dart out into the parking lot before we can take his hand lately, screaming NO HAND NO HAND NO HAND! and crying his eyes out and refusing to walk if we take his hand (no way do I give into this nonsense, if he refuses to walk he gets dragged)). Not going to lie here, I was starting to get downright paranoid about the issue of him drowning.

I've taken a two prong approach to addressing wandering and drowning.

  1. Secure the perimeter: our house already has a security system we use in annunciator mode at all times, and leave set to "stay instant" all night. But we are not at our house much in the summer. I can't fortify my parent's house, a DNR cabin, a hotel room, or a tent. But I can buy one of these (which I will review when I get it) that allows me to prevent doors from being opened. That should take care of everything but the tent, and I have some ideas on that front.
  2. Address the risk: I do not have a pool, nor a friend with one. How should I teach my child to swim (especially when he doesn't listen to me half the time anyway?) Fortunately, the YMCA has the answer to that! The YMCA in Birmingham (the detroit suburb where I work, about 20 minutes from my house) has no less than 4 special needs swim instructors who are able to perform a 6 week, 1:1 swimming lesson to Billy that should address this. I also took the opportunity to sign the family up for access to the YMCA so we can help give him outlet for his swimming needs, and also accommodate Becky's longstanding request to join a gym with childcare. (Talk about a solid win!)

Anyway the swim instruction starts Wednesday so I'll update everyone as to his progress.

Interesting story during our tour, the lady signing us up was making small chat about things, and was aware of our special needs swimming class needs and the impetus, and asked if we had any questions at the end of our tour. I asked if there was any policy on whether we can practice swimming with Billy fully clothed in street clothes, including shoes. She was caught off guard by this, then suddenly you could see it click in her head why we would want to do this, and she got this look that seemed like a cross between understanding, sympathy, and horror. Apparently that can be worked out with the instructor, which is good. :)

If you would like to learn more about autism and wandering, please visit the National Autism Association's excellent site on wandering here

And on a lighter note, here he is crashed out on the couch:

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2 thoughts on “Learning to swim”

  1. We've been taking CSB to AquaTots at 16 and Rochester. They're VERY good with him there.

    And while CSB certainly isn't autistic, getting him to follow directions of the "go like this" variety are certainly not among his strong points.

    1. I was considering that, but we also wanted a place to swim together, exercise, and the YMCA ticked off a number of items on the to-do list and the hours are decent (open til 9 or 10 pm, a few blocks from my work) so it worked out.

      The oddest challenge we have with Billy is that besides him not following verbal instructions, despite him frequently using pointing to show US an object, if we point at something he just stares at us. We do better convincing him to turn, stop, and walk and verbally describing the object rather than pointing at it. Very odd.

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