For as long as I can remember Evan has loved water.
I took him to mother and toddler swimming from about 4 months old he loved it and would scream when it was time to leave.
By the time Evan was 3 he had developed an obsession with water.
Any water anywhere was fair game.
Taps,toilets,puddles, baths,showers, sinks, water tables, water features, hosepipes, mop buckets, rivers, the lake, fountains,drains any he could find.
Evan would turn on taps full blast, put his head in the toilet or run fully clothed at speed into the lake whenever he got a chance.
Looking back I wonder why I wasn’t alarmed by his behaviour.
I never really questioned the fact he had to be wrestled from the sink at the hospital so the audiologist could examine him or that his first visit to the optician was a nightmare because he repeatedly got out of the chair and climbed up to her tiny sink(much to her disgust!)
We got into a routine of going to the pool most afternoons after nursery.It was easier than spending hours at the sink with him flooding the kitchen,although some days he still insisted we do that too when he got home!
Evan never showed any interest in actually swimming, he preferred to sit on the bottom of the pool holding his breath or liked to jump in over and over again from the same spot.
Like most children Evan was on the waiting list for swimming lessons for when he turned four.
When his time came it was clear his lack of speech and difficulties understanding meant that lessons were not an option for him.
Evan was already diagnosed with autism but I hadn’t given any thought to the simple things it might affect.
It was a real blow.
I decided that I would teach him myself.
Armed with a copy of “Teach your child to swim” I gave it my best shot.
It was nothing short of disastrous.
Evan had no interest in bouncing around in the water singing action songs (as page 30 suggested)
Nor did he want to float on his back,dive for toys or hold onto a float while I dragged him round enthusiastically shouting kick,kick kick over his screams.
No, he wanted to sit on the bottom of the pool.
I decided that him loving the water and having fun was better that traumatising him by trying to teach him doggy paddle, besides I figured his ability to hold his breath for record breaking amounts of time would surley be of use should he get in to trouble!
Over the next couple of years Evan gradually taught himself to swim,he mimicked other people and just copied what they did.
He mastered a crude version of every stroke.
When Ev was 8 he went to the local pool in Half Term for 3o minutes swimming lesson every morning.He loved it.
So I booked him a block of ten 1-1 lessons in Penrith. He swam his 1000 meters and got his level badges.
From then he started watching clips of swimming on Youtube and taught himself the strokes.
In Febuary Evan went to the North West Disability swimming training for the first time. They meet once a month in kendal or Ulverston.
He loved every second of the training session.
I explained if he joined a swimming club he could train like that each week,he was very keen on the idea indeed!
So he had a trial and joined a local club the following week.
When he turned up for his trial he wore his favorite large, bright green snorkel mask, he didn’t care that he stood out and perhaps looked a bit daft, he was just delighted to be there.
I love that about Evan most of all.
It is a huge learning curve for him and at times he has struggled to understand.
After his first few sessions we spent hours marching up and down the hall so he understood why he had to wait till the person in front got to a certain point before he swam and that he didn’t need to wait to be told when to swim.
We used Lego mini figures to explain races.
We cover everything.
Evan absolutely adores going to swimming club.
This weekend he got to swim in his first inter club competition as another boy had dropped out.
It took ages to explain to him he had to wear his club t-shirt pool side,and then to explain he was not expected to swim in it!
My heart was in my mouth as I left him at the changing room door.
New places, smells, unfamiliar and unrehearsed situations can be extremely challenging for Evan.Daily life and everyday things present him with invisible challenges that we all take for granted.
Trying to get it right and cope are extremley exhausting for him..
I couldn’t look when during the warm up he carried on swimming when everyone else had climbed out!
He was part of a relay team.
I was very worried he would let the other boys down as they are all excellent swimmers and Evan still has much to learn.
He did it.
He swam his race. Just like everyone else.
Mum and I both openly wept at his achievement.
His first dive was appalling…..but he can work on that!
He now wears “proper” goggles and a swimming hat!