Swim Lessons for a Sensory Kid

By: Martianne Stanger

Shaving creamIf you came to my house during bathing times when my oldest was a toddler, you would have thought something awful was going on inside. My boy had a sensory aversion to water that made routine hygiene a harrowing experience for us all.

Fast forward a handful of years and our boy has not only gotten used to the water, but has begun to love it. He now showers by himself, albeit not daily! He enjoys water play, both indoors and out. And – perhaps the biggest news of all – he told me yesterday that one of his goals for the summer is to learn to “really swim.” Yes, my boy wants to become a “real swimmer.”

In the wading poolI could not be more excited. However, I also could not be more cautious. I know that if my boy’s swim lesson experiences don’t go well, it could be back to the beginning stages of our long water-immersion program for him. First, we created many fun water experiences for hands, then body, then face. We stocked up on supplies for shaving cream fun, shampoo finger paints, gel body paints, and sensory sandbox stay days. We hit the wading pool and splash pad for a sense of “safe swimming” and had sprinkler fun. We took things step-by-step, day-by-day, one experience at a time, from one finger happily in the water to the whole body going under.

So, what do I plan to do in order to ensure that my boy’s first swimming lessons of the season are positive ones?

I debated long and hard about this. I know my boy is ready to jump in the water to swim. I also know he is ready for more class-type experiences in his life. However, I am not sure he is ready to jump in the water in a class-type experience with a teacher he doesn’t know and kids he doesn’t know. While this would be no big deal for some kids, it could be just too much for mine. Too many variables. Too many unknowns. Too many distractions and things to get used to.

Sensory sandboxThank goodness, then, that I found U Swim.  It is an incredibly helpful site that guides adults in how to teach children to swim one-on-one.  I used the site a bit last year for ideas in how to move all three of my children from waders to porpoises, floating and diving under shallow waters. Now that my oldest has declared he is ready for “real swimming,” I will move on with the lessons outlined on the site. Then, when (and if) my boy asks if he can take group lessons, I will set U Swim aside and brave local group lessons.

My oldest’s pace.  My support.  One day, one victory at a time.  That is our swim plan for this season.

What is yours?


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