Thanks to Louise, I am a keen fan of Harry Potter, and one of my favourite Albus Dumbledore lines (apart from “I’d like a nice cup of tea or perhaps a large brandy”) is when he says “There will come a time when we must choose between what is right, and what is easy”. This weekend I had one of those moments. For the past few months, Sunday mornings have fallen into a particular pattern. George and I would go swimming together with his Grandad whilst Louise took Olly to his Grans before we all got together for a nice Sunday lunch.
As I lay in bed on Saturday night though, I began to think how unfair it was that Olly should miss out on the swimming. We had taken him swimming twice before, both to special sessions where the pool had been reserved for a small amount of children with special needs. After some initial trepidation relating to the changing rooms and then a nervy start to getting into the pool, Olly took to it like a duck to water. I will never forget the stunned look on Louise’s face when she looked over at Olly and I just at the right moment to see him happily jump into the pool into my arms. Priceless. Taking Olly swimming on a busy Sunday morning however when the pool was open to all was an altogether different proposition to me though, and definitely one of those “right or easy” moments. It would definitely be easier for me not to take Olly with us, but would it be right? Thinking of how much Olly had enjoyed those special sessions made my mind up for me though. I decided to take the plunge.
Olly and George had stayed at their Grandparents the night before so Louise and I could have a lovely night out, so I packed their swimming things and went to pick them up along with Grandad. The plan was that Grandad would stick with George whilst I looked after Olly. When I greeted the boys, I quickly showed Olly one of his social stories on his iPad which showed some pictures of the swimming pool, and explained to him that we would be getting his coat and shoes on, and then going in the car to the swimming pool. It is very important that you explain to Olly what the plan is rather than simply picking him up and going. He seemed to understand and seemed happy enough to go along with things, so off we all went.
When we got to the pool, Olly was so good and held my hand and also walked brilliantly into the building and into the changing rooms. He likes small spaces at the moment so was quite happy to come into the small changing room with me and close the door. I got him ready first, and the only moment he seemed agitated was when I tried to take off his nappy and put on a swimming nappy instead. He wasn’t happy about that but it didn’t lead to a full meltdown thankfully and was just a minor grumble. The trickiest moment in the changing rooms was actually when Grandad and I couldn’t figure out how to work the lockers, but thankfully George (with a roll of his eyes) was able to show us how to do it.
Next we walked to the pool area. It was very very busy. Olly walked in well but once we were inside I realised immediately that he was upset. He held my hand very tightly and took me over toward the small teaching pool (on his previous visits he had gone in both the big pool and the teaching pool). I told Grandad to go off with George and so they did. I sat down with Olly on a small ledge by the teaching pool and he held my hand very tightly and went into one of his little coping trances. There would have been a time when I would have forced the issue at this point, but I have learned a lot and it is important to give him the time to figure things out and get comfortable, so I just sat with him for quite a few minutes. I didn’t think we were going to be going into the pool today at all, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t want him to be scared or upset.
My patience paid off though and after those few minutes, he stood up and led me towards the teaching pool. It was almost empty apart from one instructor and three children. What happened next could have been very unfortunate but a crisis was thankfully averted. There was no barrier or sign saying that the teaching pool was currently closed to the public, and we walked right past a lifeguard sitting in his high chair and got in the pool. From this point forward in the narrative, we shall refer to said lifeguard simply as “Nimrod”.
Once we were in the pool, Nimrod shouted down at me, “Excuse me, this pools closed at the moment for a swimming lesson”. Now I’m pretty chilled out these days, mainly due to pills and counselling, but at this moment I started to feel pretty enraged. If this fool knew how hard it was for me to get Olly this far, then he might have considered putting up a “pool closed” sign or some sort of barrier. Or he could have just told me before I’d actually got Olly into the bloody pool!! It was at this point that I unashamedly decided to play “the autism card”. I shouted up, “He has autism and it’s taken me ten minutes to get him this far”. Nimrod was just about to shout back at me presumably to say something along the lines of “rules are rules” or “what’s autism”, when the kind swimming instructor at the other end of the pool took pity on me and shouted over and said, “it’s okay, I’m almost done”. Phew, thank goodness for that. Can you imagine how confusing and distressing it would have been for poor Olly had I been forced to get him out of the pool no sooner than he had summoned up the courage to get in.
From this point, Olly had a marvellous time. He had a big smile on his face. He found a little red watering can which he didn’t let go of the whole time and he jumped around, climbed out and jumped back into my arms, and also had me hold him up so he could kick his legs behind him. We had the teaching pool all to ourselves for a couple of minutes, but sadly a large group of muggles quickly saw it was available and came and joined us and generally dived all over the place and got on top of us. I’ve always been one of those people who seems to have this gift of being invisible to others. I’m always the one to move out of the way on the street or in this case the pool. People just seem to barge right through me. I wouldn’t dare do that! I guess that’s why they get away with it and I don’t. Anyway, I’m nitpicking now and this sudden invasion didn’t really spoil the experience.
Towards the end, Olly climbed out and led me to the big pool and we joined George and Grandad for the last few minutes. Ollys confidence astonished me. I think he will probably learn to swim very quickly if he continues to go swimming regularly. When it was time to go, he got out of the pool and I led him back to the changing rooms without any problems, and we got dressed and headed off to Gran and Grandad’s house for Sunday lunch. Grandad and I even managed to work out the lockers this time too.
So, it all worked out great (Nimrod notwithstanding), and I think Olly will now become a permanent member of our Sunday morning swimming club. I’m so pleased I went through with it, and I think Dumbledore would be proud.