It’s 5am. I’m writing this now as I can’t sleep. I’m stressed. Again. Why? This time it’s because of something that most people would consider quite a normal experience. In fact most would treat it as a fun and healthy family activity. But to me it is utterly terrifying. What is it? Swimming lessons.
The kiddo hasn’t been swimming much. We’ve had mixed responses when we have taken him in the past. But recently he has enjoyed it and even asked to go. So we took the plunge and decided to book him some lessons. We both truly believe as parents that swimming lessons are essential. Great exercise, important for safety and fabulous for helping the sensory system in various ways. But the truth of this for us as a family is that swimming is dangerous for the kiddo. He’s unpredictable, no awareness of danger whatsoever and prone to quick and horrendous meltdowns which require two to three people to keep him safe. He becomes violent as he is lost in a world of sensory overload, where nothing is in proportion. The most normal of experiences (to us neurotypical lot anyway) such as lights being turned on and off, people rummaging in bags and the joyous sound of excited children echoing and bouncing off the changing room walls brings pain. So much pain. Unbearable excruciating pain which so often is misinterpreted by the naive passer by as a simple tantrum. And for this reason, swimming is dangerous for us as a family.
I did my research. I found a fabulous company that allowed us to have the pool all to ourselves at a very reasonable price. They understood our needs and were willing to accommodate whatever we needed. I’d hit the jackpot. This is too good to be true surely?
Sadly, I think it is. Because the one thing I forget to check was access. This is an independent pool belonging to a local farmer. And their kindness in letting us have it so cheap, their understanding about how the fans would need to be turned off to prevent a drain on kiddos sensory resilience, has not gone unnoticed. In fact, I was lost in it. I revelled in it. Because it is so rare.
Yesterday I finalised all the details, excited for this opportunity. Then the thought occurred. Will I be able to get his buggy/wheelchair in there? You see, kiddo is big for his age. He is the size of a 6/7 year old yet he is only 3. His weight is over 20kg. I struggled to lift him when he is calm and compliant, let alone when he is in full on sensory meltdown. I need this buggy to keep him safe. To stop him running (for he is a runner, no awareness of anything around him – he would run the wrong way up a motorway if he had the chance), to allow me just two seconds to get dressed after the lesson. I’m not even talking about getting dry, I’m simply talking about throwing a hoody and tracksuit bottoms on whilst still wet, as he will be gone in a flash.
I ask the company about access for buggies and wheelchairs. There is none. Access is poor, they admit. A narrow set of steps only. The car park is over the road. A road?! I have to cross a road?! My heart rate escalated at this point. Crossing a road with kiddo not in his buggy is just simply not an option. I can’t carry him. He’s too unpredictable to assume he will walk.
I’d like to note that right now I’m talking about the simple task of crossing a road. Something we all do everyday and don’t even consider the danger, the impact it could have on our lives. To us as a family, the risk assessment for crossing a road without kiddo in his buggy is more than extensive. It’s endless. The possible impact? Devastating.
Ok so, I can’t take his buggy in. I have to cross a road. How the hell am I going to do this. How will I get him in that building if he decides that it is all too much? The answer, I won’t. I don’t stand a chance.
It’s now 5.23am. I still don’t have a solution. The family are asleep in blissful slumber. I so wish I was there too, especially as it’s so rare at this time of day for the house to be so peaceful!
But the stress of allowing our family to have a normal existence is just too much. My back pain has crept back in. My head is whirring with options, plans, alternatives? All this for a swimming lesson. Something most families wouldn’t even give a second thought to.
Sometimes I would give anything for a typical stress free existence. And whilst I realise that many neurotypical families face challenges everyday, I can’t help but feel that ours start with the most basic of functions. Sleep for one, but that’s a whole other blog…
The kiddo has stirred. I’m off to make a cuppa.
Have a good weekend all, and thanks for reading,