Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Irrational Fears and... Part 3: The 11th and 12th Swim Lessons

Continuing my "Irrational Fears and..." series, which began with a post about fear of the dentist and continued with a post about fear of the doctor, I now am writing about a fear of the water...sort of.

Sammi has always loved the water.  So much so, that I was terrified that she would never understand the dangers and the need for boundaries when it comes to being safe vs. jumping in without a second thought.  I had always intended to put her into swim lessons, but was too afraid to, because, until very recently, she didn't know how to hold her breath and had no clue how to *not* breathe in when water hit her face.  Sputtering and choking was always the inevitable outcome, and I was discouraged, disappointed, and nervous about her future safe enjoyment of water.  For years I had been reading stories about people with Down syndrome on their Special Olympics swim team, or swimming Lake Tahoe, or just being real fish when it comes to water.  I wanted that for Samantha.

Just two summers ago, she had even gotten brave enough to jump off the side of the pool and into my waiting arms again...and again...and again...  This actually made me more nervous, but I was pleased that she enjoyed it.  This past winter I finally got off my duff, shelled out the prohibitive fee for a series of sessions, and finally signed her up for swim lessons.  Private lessons, because she needed that 1:1, at least until she was able to be safe in the water independently for a few minutes at a time.  I figured once she was able to hold her breath and, perhaps, doggie paddle, I could switch up to the slightly-less-expensive and more motivating (due to peer modeling) semi-private or group lessons.  After some scheduling snafus, we finally had an instructor and began her lessons on Sunday afternoons. 

I knew at the beginning that even though Samantha refused to let go of the instructor's neck and only just barely did anything she asked her to do, that given enough time and patience, she would eventually come around and relax a little, and would actually learn something.  But, after about 5 lessons, nothing had changed except my wallet was a little bit lighter, and, on 2 occasions, Sammi had actually done that jump-off-the-side-of-the-pool thing for her.  It was discouraging, but around that time the instructor informed us that she was moving away, to another state.  I liked her, but who knows how Samantha felt about her?  Perhaps the fit just wasn't right and that was holding her back.

We were assigned a new instructor, a very sweet high school girl, who really knows her stuff.  Actually, I didn't know she was in high school, nor would I have ever suspected it, until we'd seen her a number of times and she mentioned looking at colleges.  Hahaha, boy, do I feel old!!  She was great with Samantha, and Sammi actually seemed to do more with her than she'd ever done with the previous instructor.  Score!! 


Soon after, she began to show real resistance to even getting into the water.  It took the bulk of each lesson just to coax her in.  Once they did get in, Sammi was content to just do the exact same things they'd done time and time again at previous lessons, refusing, with both a howl and real tears, to try anything new. 

And then...not even that.  She was regressing.  We never saw her jump off the side of the pool again.  She stopped holding onto the floating barbell and kicking.  She increased her death grip on the instructor, crying any time even the slightest suggestion was made to remove a hand to hold some sort of float. 

Then she stopped going into the water altogether.

I tried everything.  Leaving the pool area so Sammi couldn't see me, hoping that without the Great Enabler there she'd do better.  Getting in the pool with her.  Everything.  Sammi had gone from talking excitedly about going to her swimming lesson all week long to saying she didn't want to do it at all.     

It got ugly. 

As a matter of fact, the last two lessons, her 11th and 12th, for the record, the instructor was kind enough to not charge us, thankfully.  And, at that point, I decided we needed a break.  A break from what, I don't really know.  She's always had her lessons at an indoor pool.  On her last lesson, we tried her with one of the outdoor pools.  Same issue.  No dice.  She and I go to pools from time to time together, and, while she won't let go of me, she still enjoys being in the water.  She even still loves to hold her breath and blow bubbles in her bath, so excited for me to watch, and trust me, I'm really excited that she's finally figured out how to hold her breath!  At least one hurdle has been covered. 

I just don't know what happened.  Was it because I have been telling her how important it is for her to learn to swim so she can be safe in and near the water?  Did she suddenly start to view the water as an unsafe environment rather than the fun place to spend time?  Is it just one of those random, weird, completely irrational fears that's cropped up for no reason (and is that even possible?)?  Will she ever want to try again?  Most importantly, will she ever learn to swim?  

I'm fully paid up for a 5-lesson series right now, just waiting until we are ready to try again.  I don't want to push her, but I also want to find her triggers.  Any advice from any of you?  I'd love to hear it...  I have another Irrational Fears and... post coming one of these days soon about my child's inability to have fun (don't look so surprised!).  Go figure...

On another note, please remember to visit my post from yesterday for a chance to win a great Betty Crocker prize pack!  It's easy, and is running through next Wednesday.  :-)


Becky said...

Does she mind taking baths? If she is okay with that, maybe try some things there. We did with my oldest who had some fear of the water at first. We did bubble blowing and actually learned how to put her face in the water taking baths every night...just a thought. :)

Becca said...

She LOVES blowing bubbles in the bath! That's the crazy thing. LOL Wish I could figure my nutty kid out!

Wilde Family said...

Do you have access to a 0-depth pool? The bath might be a safe and fun place for her because she sits in it with water up to her waist. A 0 depth pool has a beginning depth of you guessed it - 0 and then the floor slants down gradually to 3-4 feet or what have you.

Becca said...

Actually, the 0-depth pool is an interesting question... The indoor pool we used for her lessons does not, nor did the particular outdoor pool we tried her with for her lesson that day. However, there are 2 pools we visited regularly this summer that *did* have 0-depth, and she had no problems getting right in to those. Hmmm...I wonder if that may have something to do with her reticence... Thanks for giving me something to chew on here!

Rochelle said...

Maybe send the hubs to see if that improves the situation. What about a book about her swimming that you take pics and detail what will happen in lessons so she is prepared and not scared?

Good luck!

Tamara said...

This is probably not valuable, but here goes. Shawen was very fearful of the water. We did an IRL from someone we met online whose son was maybe a year older than Shawen. He was one of those "fish" you talked about. First thing they were at the pool. So, I asked him if he wanted to go meet AJ. He put his trunks on. I told them he wouldn't get in the water.

He got in like he'd never been afraid of it ever.

So not helpful, right? He's still not a great swimmer, but he did take lessons, and I'll sign him up again soon. He's taking his black belt test (again) on Saturday, so if he passes that, we'll have more time to do swimming.

Good luck -

Jenny said...

Is there a lot of commotion at the pool when she goes for lessons? I know one of my kids didn't like the pool because it was so loud and noisy there...So maybe it's not a fear of water really, but something else?

Becca said...

I like Tamara's suggestion - we'll have to try that!! Jenny - no, we usually were pretty much the only people there. :-(

Kerri Ames said...

I wish I had an answer. I have the exact opposite problem with Boo. After 3 years of hydrotherapy she has NO FEAR of the water.

You probably have tried this, but maybe go to a pool when it is not lesson time. Just have her dangle her feet in the water. Then stand on the stairs, etc...maybe your OT would have some better ideas.

Rochelle said...

I nominated you for an award on my blog!