He Floats

Tad has been through three different teachers since beginning swimming lessons this summer.  The swim instructor that teaches for the school has stayed the same (and Tad really likes him), but we’ve had a run of bad luck with keeping a teacher around.

He had the same teacher all summer, but she left at the beginning of September for an internship job – which means she quit her job as a swimming instructor.  Then he had a teacher that I really liked, because she was so no-nonsense and Tad really responded to her.  But after 5 weeks, she told me that her school schedule was changing and she wouldn’t be teaching on Mondays anymore.  The next teacher just seemed so young and so timid, and she had Tad for only a couple of lessons.

Then lessons got canceled the week before Halloween because the pool was having a new heat pump put in.  Initially, the office manager called and said that they needed to move Tad’s lesson to three hours later (which meant it would be during dinnertime instead of right after school got out), but Tad depends on his swimming lesson, so I said I would make it work.  Then the installation wasn’t finished, and lessons were just canceled.

But when I had talked to the office manager, she had told me that Tad’s late lesson that day would be with yet another instructor.  I told her that this was really exasperating – because even though Tad had been handling the change of teachers pretty well, and I knew they couldn’t do anything about people leaving their jobs for other opportunities, Tad is still an autistic kid who thrives on having a consistent schedule – and consistent teachers.

She apologized – even though I told her that I knew that this wasn’t her fault – and then I got a message on our answering machine from David, the pool director, who said that he would be around during Tad’s next lesson and if I wanted to talk more, he would be happy to talk with me.

When we walked in for his swimming lesson on Halloween, I realized that David was going to be teaching Tad that day.

Now, I’ve met him before – he’s a nice guy who tested Ane’s swimming skills at the beginning of the summer to see what class she should be in – but he is also a no-nonsense instructor.  And… he’s a guy.

Tad has ALWAYS responded positively to men-as-authority-figures.  While he loves me, he has always had a special bond with the important men in his life, like his father and grandfathers.  Even when he was really little, and we visited the Captain and Q-Bee back in the summer of 2007, Tad would immediately go to his uncle when he walked in the door.  Even though he couldn’t verbalize it properly until late last year, Tad knew instinctively that he was a boy, and could identify other males.  And whenever he has had a male teacher or instructor, he’s done very well.

So, I was thrilled to see David immediately get engaged with Tad, let him know who was boss, and then start making him work.  And, oh boy, did he make that kid WORK.

I had never seen Tad work that hard, showing what he could actually do in the water.  Even in the larger class lessons, Tad isn’t pushed because there is only one teacher and little one-on-one work.  But here, David was making him work his arms, kick his feet, and demanding his attention.  And Tad gave it to him.  And then David set Tad loose and had him do a backfloat.

And the boy floated.  My boy can float.

I was so happy I could have cried.  He really has learned something in this last year of lessons, and with the proper motivation, he is able to apply himself.

We came back this week to find David ready to take Tad on again.

When Tad tried to balk and stall for more playtime by dashing away from David, he just picked Tad up out of the water and said, “I’m the great white shark who has come to get you – ” and then he bodily flipped Tad over into the water.  Tad was so thrilled that David did it a second time, then he got down to business, making Tad swim a crawl and then flipping him over to float.

When I heard the words “great white shark,” I started to think that maybe David would accept a tip, or an extra amount of cash each week, if we could guarantee that he would keep teaching Tad.

Because whenever you say “great white shark” to Tad, you have just said the magic words that will make him listen to you forever.

3 Responses to “He Floats”

  1. Aunt Lynda
    November 8th, 2011 07:06

    Sounds like a great match! I hope it can continue.

  2. Nana
    November 8th, 2011 07:26

    My life-long love affair with swimming is happening to our grandkids, thanks to your efforts.

  3. Laura
    November 9th, 2011 09:19

    We also do swim. Actually even before our diagnosis. It has been so great for Rett! Sounds like Tad has found a good instructor!