It's been a while since I've taught adaptive aquatics. That's why, when I had to teach two brothers who were both autistic, I was a bit concerned. I wasn't afraid of them; I was scared that the challenge would be too great. The last time I taught an autistic child was a year ago. I knew I should have went in with more confidence because in the end I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Jim was probably around 10 years old. He was mute. He brought two figurines which he loved to chase. He was very excited to be in the water but he would not touch me at all. It took a lot of eye contact and simple phrases to help us get along. In the end, he was very attached to me, trying to climb onto me and not letting go. Jim is a very intelligent boy who is fun and loving. He even tried to kiss me on the cheek at one point. I felt as though I had made a new friend. He taught me that patience is key.
Leoneil was probably around 7 years old. He didn't know how to speak but he would grunt when he's displeased and he would create high-pitched noises when he was excited. Unlike his brother, he was not enthusiastic to get into the water. When he got in, he hung onto me very tightly. He would place his feet onto my legs, making me squat as I tried to control his temper. At last, he began to get used to the environment. He still hung onto me but he began to kick a bit with his feet. During the half hour session, he didn't let go of me once but he was happy. I was rewarded with a big, bright smile everytime he splashed with his hands or tried to blow bubbles. He was adorable. Admittedly, it hurt when he began to get nervous and dug his fingers into my arms or sometimes he would unknowingly pull at my hair. Leoneil is such an innocent child and--just like Jim--very loving.
Today, I'm looking back at my experience with them and although my thighs are sore from Leoneil's weight, and rather tired from putting every ounce of concentration I had into them, I couldn't be happier. I'm happy that I get such a rare opportunity to work with such beautiful children. It's a shame so many people are afraid to ask questions, to try and get to know them. I just know I would do it again and again and again for the rest of my life.
Jim and Leoneil, thank you for such an amazing experience.