You’ve probably seen some of the viral posts about hairdressers going out of their way for children with autism and sensory difficulties. They cut their hair on the floor or they go into their car to cut it. Or how about the waiter that stood up to bullies being mean to an autism family because their child was a little loud? Today, I read an article about an airline worker who helped an adult with autism who was having a meltdown. These posts resonate so much with me and I know they do with others as well.
As an autism mom, I see the unsympathetic or pitiful way people look at my son when he is wearing headphones or flapping and making strange noises in public. Sometimes it can be hard and uncomfortable to be around a child that you may not understand. Working with them is no different. Doing things outside of the “norm” isn’t how we are trained to behave, right? In school and in work, we do as we’re told. So, those few and far between people who go out of their way to do something “unique” for someone else are truly special.
Our swim instructors are just that. Unique. Coach Matt and Coach Kelley have shown compassion and patience with Jacob. They are open-minded and willing to adapt to the needs of the kids they work with. Teaching Jakey to swim has been on the top of our priority list, but his resistance to learning, matched with the incredible dangers of a deep pool, have been huge setbacks for teaching him.
Recently, we found a unique place called Captain Swim Navy in Humble that offers swim lessons in a boat shaped pool that adjusts to the child’s height. It offers a safe and effective way to train all kids to swim. But more than that, when I called, Coach Matt said that he WANTED to help kids with autism and asked me to bring Jacob in. In fact, he was even open to being trained by Jacob’s ABA therapists to better understand how to work with kids with autism. Although each child is different, he went out of his way and adjusted his teaching methods for Jacob. Coach Matt and Coach Kelley even learned how to use a picture schedule and token system for him and other kids that need it.
These are the kind of people that may not even realize what a difference they are making in the community and for autism families. I want to challenge you to think outside of the box the next time you encounter a child with autism at your workplace or in the community. Be the one who is causing a stir because of your compassion. Be the one who refuses to conform to how everyone else is responding and instead stepping out to be a change-maker.
I am so thankful that someone has done this for Jacob. In just a few weeks, he has learned how to float and hold his breath under water for quite a while! Through some innovative and hilarious techniques, Jacob has come much further than we ever expected. He wasn’t wanting to put his head in the water while doing the alligator crawl, but a mirror did the trick. He just wanted to see his own beautiful face. What a stinker. I know he will be swimming soon.
Many people may not know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children with autism. If you haven’t started considering swim lessons for your child, I urge you to call around and find somewhere. If you are a swim instructor and interested in working with kids with autism, but don’t know how, contact a local ABA Therapy company and ask for training. Many companies want to reach out and help the community so they have a place to recommend for autism families. Let’s join together to make this world a bit safer for our kids with autism!