So I told you about my son who is autistic, and I told you about his first swim meet and how worried I was about his second one… But I didn’t actually tell you how the second home meet went, so let’s do that today.
First off though, I want to share a little autism thing with you. There has been plenty of “swim meets” during this season. However most of them have been away and because of them not being in our home town, we have not been signing our kiddo up for them. In fact we haven’t even talked to him about them, if he asked, we would. But since he hasn’t brought them up, neither have we.
You might be thinking, well that’s pretty lazy of us, like we aren’t willing to drive 1-4 hours for our sweet child to grow and try new things. But here’s the thing, we are stretching Mr. L and we are introducing him to new things, just at a different pace then his peers can handle.
Would I love to take Mr. L to more then 3 swim meets a season? Yeah, I would. But I also don’t want to overwhelm him to the point of him digging his heels in and refusing to do the whole swim thing anymore because he had one terrible experience.
So when my husband and I discussed which swim meets to offer our autistic child, we determined that home meets were the best starting place for him to experience all that a swim meet entails. These meets are loud, busy, unpredictable, challenging, and often cold. Furthermore when accepting that swim meets are basically the next step in this swimming journey, my other half and I agreed that dipping our toes into this step would be done best in a location that Mr. L was familiar with.
Consistency is the key to success at our house and letting Mr. L try out a few swim meets in his home turf just made sense to us. Our home YMCA is familiar- many of the people, the layout, the location, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, other parents who don’t get autism definitely tried to persuade us to sign up our son for away meets because “They are just so fun” and we would be “missing out on all of the excitement” if we didn’t sign up. Ha! They obviously don’t know how not fun anxiety, too much pressure, and full blown meltdowns can also be. Ain’t nobody gonna be having any fun if we have a child almost as tall as me screaming, crying and laying out in the middle of a high foot traffic area. Hahaha no. Just no.
We know our child, we know his limits and we work every day on stretching him and helping him grow. Tossing him into a new place that we can’t prep him for is just asking for a terrible day. So for now it has been a couple of home meets, and these experiences have been bursting full of new adventures and learning moments.
Without further ado, here is how Mr. L’s second swim meet went.
It was less stressful this time around just because our family had a better understanding of what to expect. Although I was a little worried that Mr. L was going to remember not finishing his last swim meet because it was 4 laps and he preferred doing only 2 laps. 50 vs 100’s I’m learning… I’m learning…
Well his coach signed Mr. L up for 3 heats (correct my verbiage if I’m wrong, I’m still learning the lingo). I find it odd that we don’t get a say in which ones he’s signed up for, but ok. Anyways, he was signed up for 50 backstroke, 50 free style, and 100 freestyle.
That means, 2 laps of backstroke, 2 laps of free style, and 4 laps of free style. Which was a problem… Our son didn’t want to dive and swim free style 4 laps. Mr. L did fantastic on his first two heats, but he was getting really upset when it came time to do his 4 laps.
I was worried that if Mr. L didn’t complete his 4 laps that it would become a mental block for him and breaking through those kinds of barriers is never easy. I talked with his coach and asked if she thought she would be able to convince him mid swim to keep going. She confidently said yes, but I let her know I still wasn’t sure. So we brainstormed and decided that he could do the backstroke for his 100 (4 laps) because it was technically free style, so doing the backstroke wouldn’t disqualify him.
But honestly, even if it did disqualify him, who freaking cared? This wasn’t the Olympics, heck, this wasn’t even high school or college level. So if being disqualified meant he got over this 4 lap fear- that would still be a win in our book! So the coach ok’d it with her head coach, and he ran it passed the announcer. And we successfully threw off every starting block’s groove.
As my son plopped himself into the water and prepared himself by grabbing onto the take off bars, every other kid who was bent on their starting block stood back up and turned to ask their coach if they were doing it wrong. The officials with their clip boards were all turning to other people and double checking their sheets and then triple checking their clipboards to see if they were actually on the right heat… All while I smiled at my son and gave him the thumbs up.
What can I say, we make waves, we change the norm and I’m getting used to it. I wasn’t embarrassed, we checked and made sure we could do this and once the announcer shared with the room that lane 4 would be doing the backstroke for his freestyle, things calmed. A bit. I’m pretty sure we threw off everyone’s groove. But it happens, and Mr. L finished ALL 4 of his laps and that was a HUGE win for him.
Oh and did I mention my kiddo won one of his heats? Yeah, he did and it was incredible to watch. It was one of his 50’s. Please don’t ask which one, I think it was his first heat? But honestly, those swim meets are so hectic and crazy. I’m just grateful he made it to each of his races, he completed them and everyone had a good time 🤪
Overall we leaned new things, Mr. L had a good time and he wants to do it again. And that’s a win in my book.
Congratulations, Mr. L! What fun! How wise of you to plan baby steps for him and not give into pressure from parents who don’t get it. I remember from my swim meet days, “freestyle” was whatever we wanted to do, but none of us ever chose the backstroke! Or breaststroke or butterfly, for that matter. Good for Mr. L.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Way to go Mr L and to you for the continued and sensitive advocacy. What a wonderful post to read on the last evening of the year. Wishing you all a happy new year!
LikeLiked by 1 person