How do I even start this? My son’s swim coach tried to teach me about how my son, Mr. L was probably overstimulated in her swim class and I was happy about it. For those of you who know me, you know I’ve been doing this autism advocating thing for awhile. You probably know by now that I have studied autism like my life depended on it, because my son’s life basically does. And you have probably gathered that some lady off the street who doesn’t have any autism training probably can’t teach me anything new.
Yep, some lady I’ve only seen a handful of times was trying to educate me on autism and I was happy to hear it.
You are probably thinking, what!? Why would I waste my time listening to a swim coach about sensory input when I have actually taught groups of people about it? Because she is kind, loving, and advocating for not only my son, but for everyone on the spectrum and the world needs more love like that in it.
I could have put my hand up, told her she didn’t actually know what was going on here, that I was the mom, that I was the one raising my autistic kid and to get back in her own lane. But no. This woman has a heart of gold, she watches my son carefully, reads his body language, obviously loves him, and teaches kids how to swim. She is investing in saving lives and makes sure that Mr. L is not only keeping up with her other students, but celebrates when he makes connections with the other kids and encourages him to be the fun kid he is.
So here’s the story: Towards the end of Mr. L’s swim class last weekend, his coach motioned for me to come to the edge of the pool because she wanted to let me know that she knew he was listening even when he wasn’t looking at her. She wanted me to learn that being in an indoor swimming pool had a lot of sensory for my son to take in. The lights are too bright, all the classes going on are loud/distracting, the temperature changes of getting in and out of the pool, etc.
I smiled, nodded and added a few more things to Mr. L’s list of things he has learned to tolerate in order to do the thing he loves- swim. The couch looked surprised and said, oh so you know these things? I smiled again and told her how my son typically wears sound canceling headphones. She told me that made sense and I told her that I have been studying autism for almost 10 years.
The swim coach wanted to make sure that I then understood that she as his coach knew he was listening even when he wasn’t looking. And I appreciated that she was metaphorically raising her hand and unabashedly joining our autism tribe.
I didn’t have to bite my tongue and smile, I didn’t have to set my stubborn/mothering pride aside and listen while she explained some of the basics of autism to me. But she didn’t have to take the time to call me over so she could advocate and try to teach a parent who may have just been made aware of their own child’s autism. Now days that can be a dangerous move and she was brave to do it because it’s obvious that she puts children and their needs first, and that’s my kind of people.
People who put children first are the good ones, those who stand up for and stand by those with special needs are what this world needs, and those who advocate for those who can’t yet for themselves are what this world deserves- whether this world likes it or not.
I’m so used to teaching, explaining, standing up for, and holding my ground for my children that to be honest this was sort of a out of normal experience for me. To be honest my first knee jerk reaction was to snap a, yeah I know! We have literally been navigating this overwhelming world for years lady! Back off! But thankfully I have been teaching myself patience, understanding, forgiveness and overall kindness for awhile too and before I chose to gather my return fire I chose to smile. And as the conversation rolled out we both recognized that we wanted to collaborate in helping my son.
However if I’m going to be raw and honest, it took a few minutes after the conversation was over before I recognized the level of kindness this woman had extended to my family. This world can be a shitty place and people can he asshats. However this world still has kind people in it too, and I’m glad we found another one of them. Sorry for the language.