Swimming has been a major “thing” is our house forever. Originally my two sensory kids hated the idea of swimming and I mean hated. I have lots of memories of them screaming hysterically when we tried to go swimming and my daughter would honestly strangle me and almost climb onto my head so that she did not have to touch the water. It was tough.
To try to explain why swimming is so tough for my kids let me give you two examples – my daughter used to describe drizzle as knives going into her skin and when she cried and tears touched her cheek she said they burnt her – so now think of her having to stand in water or even worse the fear of having to submerge your head when your whole body is telling you the water is hurting you. I can’t imagine how hard that must be.
Then a few years ago we were at my brother’s house and my kids wanted to swim with their cousins – I was blown away. But my daughter got onto the steps of the pool and after an epic meltdown my son got in the water (I never realized how the style of a swimming costume was so important until my son was wearing a wet costume – even now buying a swimming costume for him is something we takes ages over as it needs to feel right on his skin).
But the kids saw their cousins enjoying the water and they were both determined to get to that stage. So when we got back home after our holiday we started weekly trips to the local pools. It did not go smoothly in the beginning. I made lots of mom mistakes – like not chosing the right pools, wave machines are a big no-no, not listening properly when one of them told me it was time to leave, and not having the right gear. I realized that along with the right costumes wearing swimming caps, goggles and ever nose clips all helped the kids feel more confident in the water. So we do. And we played, no expectation. We have fun. We listen to the kids and when they have had enough even if it is after only 20 minutes we get out quickly and then we go straight home – no dragging them to the shops after an overwhelming swimming trip.
It has taken us a long time and I was often very despondent, wondering what I needed to do to make them more confident in the water, I cried a few times and they cried a few times. But we have persevered (my kids may have SPD but they can be very determined when they really want to do something). And now both kids go deep under water. They float on their back and kick like crazy (floating on the backs was a tremendously difficult thing for my two – it’s the feeling of the water in their ears as the lie back).
We still have a long way to go but compared to how we were just a few months ago the improvement is incredible. And if you ave told me just a year ago that we would be planning our week’s activities around our swimming trips I would never have believed you.
So if you have a sensory kids who hates the water please don’t give up. I know it is hard, IT IS. I know it is frustrating and sometimes you wonder if you are failing as a parent but please don’t give up. Please. Every trip, every small step in the water helps them build up that trust that the water on their skin is not sore and with every small step they DO get more confident.