Boo on the other hand… Well, let’s just say things haven’t being going quite so well. If you want to put an optimistic spin on it, he’s consolidated skills he’s been learning over the last few months ready for the next developmental spike. Another way of looking at it is that he is temporarily plateauing. To be frank, for about three weeks it has felt like we’d hit a brick wall and were struggling to get ourselves up following the impact.
But you only need a little glimmer of hope to get the gumption to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward, I find, and in the past few days there have been a few little glimmers. One involves Boo’s promising new obsession with his feet, which may well form the basis of next week’s Small Steps post, but for now, I wanted to focus on quite a different achievement.
Boo is a cygnet!
For those of you who don’t follow the Aquatots swimming programme, that means Boo that has completed his second swimming level and a bunch of skills associated with it. I am so proud!
I started taking Boo swimming in September of last year. His sister had started Aquatots swimming lessons at about 4 months of age. We took a break of 18 months at one point, but now she’s nearly finished all of the 20-something levels and at age 5 1/2 can swim 17 lengths, dive like a pro, and is much more confident and safe in the water than her mother!
In fact that’s why I started swimming lessons for her. My own mum has a pathological fear of water, which she successfully passed on to me and I only learned to swim myself as an adult. Not only is this a bit embarrassing, it’s also a safety issue. I didn’t want my kids to be like me. In fact, that just about sums up my parenting goals full stop.
Even after Boo was born prematurely, I knew I wanted him to have lessons like his sister. So he was safe in the water. And when his muscle tone issues became more apparent, I became even more determined. Many children with cerebral palsy and other neurological and motor disorders are prescribed hydrotherapy as part of their treatment. Where I live, this isn’t an option, but private swimming lessons were, and if they could help give him more awareness of his body in space, that could only be a good thing.
But the reality of swimming lessons was even better than I’d thought. Boo has developed a freedom in the water he doesn’t have on dry land. When he started, his arms were rigidly down by his sides. Slowly he started to move them forwards and attempt to grab toys or the side of the pool (albeit often with clenched fists). Most of all though, he just loved being in the pool. Like his sister, he is a real water baby and he loves being around other kids his own age. He laughed from when the class began to when it finished every single week.
And then came the damned infantile spasms and the steroid treatment and level 2 swimming had to be abandoned. I missed it. I felt Boo was missing out therapeutically too, but there was nothing we could do. It was a happy day, indeed, when we took it up again in May. Boo hadn’t forgotten much and squealed even louder during lessons.
So what can he do? Well, he can ride piggy back on me while I swim round the pool (usually eating my hair, I have to add). He will kick his legs when suitably encouraged and reach out for toys in front of him, even if he finds holding them difficult. He tries to grab the side of the pool. He happily goes under the water and knows to hold his breath when I give the ‘ready, go’ command and kicks to the surface. He can swim about half a meter underwater himself and completely independently (yes, I used the words independently and Boo in the same sentence). And although he’s not supposed to do this, I love the way he rolls 360 degrees as he swims forwards.
He can roll in the water. Let me repeat that: he can roll, yes roll, in the water.
After I don’t know how many months of practice, he still can’t roll on dry land and might never be able to. In the water he can. He shouldn’t. But he does. And he loves it and I love it too.
One of the other things I love about all this is that this is not a SEN swimming class. I have nothing against SEN classes and can see that we will only get so far with Aquatots lessons before Boo’s physical challenges prevent him from progressing in the way his peers do. A SEN class will clearly be the right place for him then if I can find one locally. But at the moment, there is not very much difference between Boo in the water and the other neurotypical kids in the class (some of whom are a fair bit older than him). And maybe it’s wrong, but I get a kick of that. When the need arises, we’ll regroup and find a more suitable class for him, but for now I’m sticking with the lovely teacher and fabulous hydrotherapy pool we have access to. The half an hour we spend together in the pool is some of the best 30 minutes of my week.
Well done, Boo, my little cygnet. I am so proud of you. And you know what? One day, you’ll be a swan, baby. I promise you that.