Summer dreams make me feel fine…
It was with great trepidation that we signed C up for swim team this year. Our club has a program where the inexperienced swimmers can be on a junior team where they all get ribbons and no one gets disqualified. We’ve had little success with these types of experiences before; karate (twice) was a disaster, golf lessons with a large group were worthless, cub scouts lasted one week, and all I can say is I’m glad C has never really wanted to do little league, because the thought of that experience makes me want to run screaming into the outfield. Generally these types of experiences are too unstructured, have too many kids, and are too chaotic for C to handle well. He runs around like a wild child, completely out of control and overstimulated, and then comes home exhausted and out of sorts for hours.
But swim team. Swim team. Basically, swim team – for me – means summer. I started swim team when I was barely five, and didn’t stop until a college without a swim team sort of forced me to. Swim team defined my childhood. I know better than to think C will follow in my footsteps, but I also know swimming would be good for him. He enjoyed the pool we had in Arizona; that is, once we actually got his little face in the pool. Then he became a fish. He loves the water and moves through it in his own unique way that is both effective and entertaining at the same time.
The first day of practice, I was dismayed to see 35-40 kids, most of whom were about 6 years old, wiggling around and waiting for the coach to get started. It was chaotic at best, insanity at worst. There was much standing in line and downtime; generally the kiss of death for C. I watched as other boys, years younger than him, somehow managed to gang up on him within minutes of practice beginning. I had to intervene at least five times, and by the end of practice I had decided there was simply no way we could continue.
I approached the coach after practice to explain why we wouldn’t be back. Too many kids and too much downtime, I rehearsed in my head, so as not to sound as though I thought the coach was somehow to blame for the situation. I started the conversation by telling him C has Aspergers, and did he know what was? “No,” he said clearly sensing that AS involved something that would make swim team challenging. “But what can I do to make C successful?”
“What can I do to make C successful?” Seriously? I was stunned. I hadn’t even told him of my decision yet, and he was already trying to keep us there. I honestly can’t recall the last time – if ever – someone has said something like that to me. Here’s this coach, basically a kid himself with 35 overactive kids on his hands, wanting to figure out how to keep C on board. I explained a little bit of the problem, and his next comment was even better. “I can rearrange things so he’ll be more comfortable. We will do whatever we need to do.”
It was only because of this conversation that C happily, and successfully, competed in his first swim meet last Saturday. I have the video to prove it. Thanks, coach.