Lil Z has always loved the water. She fell asleep during her first bath in hospital. And she’s been falling asleep in baths ever since. She has also fallen asleep a few times in the hot tub. As a result, we’ve always used water to soothe her – especially after a seizure or when she’s having a particularly unhappy and difficult day. And bath time is one of her favourite parts of the day – especially now that she’s learned how to splash her sister.
Still, I’ve only taken Lil Z swimming once. It was last year at Red Hill Special School with her ECDP playgroup. We arrived a bit early so she was the first in the pool and was tolerating it fairly well until the other children – who were both older and much noisier – arrived. She couldn’t cope with the chaos and the session ended with much crying and ear scratching.
Fast-forward six months, and Lil Z’s physio has been terribly keen to get her in the water. So, he convinced the head of the school to give us permission to use the pool. And he organized a time when there would be a “spotter” available to meet the school’s safety rules. (this is what I mean when I write about the importance of Lil Z’s therapists and doctors feeling a bond with her – because they will then go out of their way to help her).
Today was the day. Considering that Lil Z and I have both been suffering from colds over the past week, I can’t say I was particularly enthusiastic, but I was determined. I was also blessed with great foresight to bring an extra towel because as soon as we went in the water, we had a bit of a snot-fest with Lil Z sneezing and coughing. However, once she’d cleared her sinuses out, she was ready to go.
She floated on her back with only a hand under her head. She chugged along on her tummy with her head above the water. She sat in a range of different positions with the physio on the steps. She floated with a ring around her chest. She practiced rolling from her back to her front, splashing the water, and kicking. And she loved floating on her side with her head cradled in someone’s arm – so much so that we had to stop before she fell asleep.
Lil Z was in the pool for an hour, going not only to me and the physio, but also his two students. She tolerated everyone quite happily – even the students, who she’d only met once. There were a few grizzles when she was doing something she didn’t like, but otherwise she was totally relaxed and happy, even chatting away with the physio while she was floating on her back. And for those of you who might not realize – this never happens. She usually fights her physiotherapy all the way with lots of grumbling and moments of crying and ear scratching, when we have to take a break and let her calm down. And she never lasts the full hour of a therapy session, she’s always either asleep or crying before the end.
Her physio and I are both thrilled by the results. Not only have we discovered a way to get Lil Z to do things she refuses to do on dry land, but she has also shown an ability to float and kick her legs, which means we might also be able to get her swimming eventually. The physio now has permission for us to use the pool for the rest of the term, so we’re going to have a swim every Tuesday before playgroup. And I can’t wait to see her progress.