When is it time to let your special needs kid swim in the deep end of the pool?

As I drove back tonight from the second successful drop off of my church’s vacation bible school, I didn’t have thoughts about my days of vbs when I was a kid and how wonderful they were but instead my drive home was more like “Oh my word, my child was singing and dancing in the front of the entire VBS body…like 200 children and he was enjoying being in the mix!” What the crap?”

When I drove back to pick him up my heart was pounding with anticipation of how much he loved the second night!? He came bopping out to the car to tell me what cool things he did on night two! Was I dreaming, what happened to all the anxiety and OCD…oh yeah, and the autism? Where’d that go?

Each night was the same send off and pick up with success at the end of each evening. That may not sound like much to many that read this but it actually speaks volumes to me seeing our son able to participate in something as intense as VBS! It is huge when it comes to all the social interaction, singing and dancing , etc that our VBS entails. And to add to the fact that this child battles an illness based OCD that leaves him to need to wash his hands, touch something repeatedly, or just the opposite and avoid  being around people at given times…..

Well, he did it and still stayed the distance each and every night!

A year ago this child could not make it past day three – and he struggled even with his dad their to help.

So, it leaves the question to be answered: when do you push your nontypical , special needs child into the deep end of the pool? In our case, its a child with autism, as well as an anxiety/OCD disorder due to an autoimmune condition.

I mean, its not like you filled a pool with sharks and asked him to “jump in” or something! You’ll be their watching and ready to throw him a hand quickly, if need be. After all, you’ve been his lifeguard all his life, right?

So…why do we shy away from the thought of introducing them to the “new waters” of life?

Obviously, this answer could go a million ways depending on the child’s needs were talking of but …at the end of the day “we” the lifeguard parents we’ve become,  can’t stand the thought of letting them even dip their toe into the deep end! We just can’t bare the thought of anything going wrong for them, we can’t! And so, we often avoid the newness sometimes to try and help them avoid the pain, worry, frustration and fear.

And, not to mention… If  when we are finally at a good place in our child’s life, why on earth would we even CONSIDER unfamiliar waters? That’s crazy thinking, right?

Wrong! It’s really not crazy to think of the “what if he could really swim, and I’m holding him back?” Kind of thinking.

I had a friend of mine recently lend her own advise about her teen with special needs whom wanted to try a camp for the first time.  She said to me when I looked shocked that she would let him go, “if I don’t let him try, what does that say about my belief that he can do it?”

So, true! Now, I’m not saying drain the pool then dare your child to jump in it. Not at all, however, if started slowly with a few toes dipped and maybe a float that I’m holding on to …well, maybe….

And boom! That’s what happens to us -scared of deeper water – parents that are completely convinced that our children will need a life jacket, for life! And …sometimes that’s true. But sometimes not!

Sometimes, we helicopter parents need to take a big deep breath and step away from the wading pool and take a look at all the life guards swimming around our children. They’re all around them but sometimes I think, for our own fears and worry, we can’t see them! We parents tend to think our world is lonely with no help or understanding and I don’t think we always give credit to what is right in front of us.

My own fear of my child’s water crept up a couple of weeks ago ……. as I was explaining to you above, nothing could make me worry less about his leap into the deep end of the pool ..until I went to pick him up and I received the biggest smile from he and the children’s ministry director giving me two thumbs up!

See, they’re often many, many of these lifeguards around our children, I like to call them “stepping stones” because each one unselfishly allows our children to step over their path and help by giding these kids in the right direction. They’ve often their cheering from the deep end and giving any needed “swim lessons” we parents worry about!

I can’t say that raising a child or children with so many extra needs is ever an easy task. I can say, however, that I sure am glad to know there are those out their up on deck armed with the knowledge that our kids may need their help at any moment but also know when to back off and watch these kids dive right in with a perfect cannon ball!

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