We received a phone call from the swimming pool to say in 6 days time Star’s swimming teacher would like her to move to a class where she swims without a parent in the pool.
I agreed, put down the phone and my mind started racing.
We haven’t prepared Star for this. She does not know the teacher. I have not talked to this teacher about Star having Down syndrome and how she learns. We do not have photos of the new teacher, a social story, there is no transition plan…..
She first saw a swimming pool less than a year ago. It was only 3 weeks ago that she was happy to swim alone on a woggle. Until then she had needed to know I was right there – my index finger resting in her tummy or back otherwise she would panic and cling to me.
And my fear grows
I recalled those reports, written about her 20 months ago:
They said she was not ready to potty train
She would not follow instructions
She would walk 2 steps and stop
She could not interact positively with other children
She could not follow the routine in pre school and was a disruption to others
Her speech was indistinct
That she needed specialist schooling to help her learn
Then I talked to myself.
We had refused to let that report be circulated because she has made so much progress, she and I have learnt so much, since that was written, since she came home to us.
We have spent the last 15 months fighting her for to be given the chances she deserves, now I have to be brave, I have to sit on the side, my costume in my bag, ready to get in if needed. Ready to mop up if she has a very public melt down.
Over the next 5 days we talked about Dan the new swimming teacher, we talked about “Mummy sitting down on the side.” We talked about being a big girl on her own in the pool.
As we drove to the swimming pool I felt wracked with nerves.
I hid my costume in the swim bag, I did not want to seem to undermine her.
She got changed. She pulled on her new costume – no swim nappy, she has been dry and clean for months, but I still have that anxiety about what might happen if she is triggered……
We walked up to the pool and Star told me “Mummy sit down” and pointed to where I should sit.
And when invited. She sat down next to the other girls at the water’s edge and they sang the opening song, smiling and blowing bubbles in the water.
Dan asked them to jump across the pool like a kangaroo
(That is not a clear 2 key word command I thought..)
And Star did it.
Jumping away from me across the pool.
And do you know?
She did, or attempted EVERYTHING she was asked to do. She barely stopped smiling.
Then we came to Star’s least favourite part of the lesson.
Collecting plastic fish from the bottom of the pool.
Usually when I am in the water she tried to get away, tries to attempt anything other than this task.
Sometimes, after persuasion and a bucket load of patience, she will take my hand and go down and pick up a fish.
One girl, Megan was proficient at this. Diving down head first, grabbing the fish.
Star watched her.
Then she took another girl’s hand and went down and got a fish.
She was rewarded with a big high 5 from Dan.
By this time Megan has an arm full of fish – Star tried to steal one and was told “no.”
Nice try – I thought.
Then she stood watching everyone, it was as if you could she her thinking
I want a fish
But I don’t want to go under to get one.
And then she did.
She fully submerged and a second later broke the surface with a yellow fish held aloft, shouting “I did it, I did it.”
She leapt up and down in the water with pleasure, beaming from ear to ear.
Megan’s mum said “I am so proud of her.”
I was crying silent tears of joy.
We celebrated afterwards with some chocolate buttons, a new certificate and a badge.
Please will you excuse me while I go and find that negative educational psychology report – that criticised her Learning. – and tear it up into tiny pieces.
Our daughter just blew those gloomy predictions out of the water – literally.