Wednesday 26 February 2014

Small Steps Amazing Achievements - Swimming!

Last weekend I experienced a moment which I seriously thought I never might. That might sound slightly over-dramatic, but thanks to Sasha's PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance - you can read more about that here) tendencies, she has got to the grand old age of 6 and 3/4 without being able to swim unaided by a float. Now, I'm happy to report, she can swim alone! Yay!
Sasha was always extremely happy in water, much more so than our eldest. I started her with swimming lessons quite young, but it was always a bit hit and miss as to whether she would join in with what the instructor was saying. Mostly miss. Luckily at that age you are in the pool with them and so it wasn't a huge issue if she didn't do what she was told - I was just happy for her to enjoy the water. She always wore armbands and so was quite happy to go off and do her own thing in the water - but never happy to remove them.

Then we took a break from those lessons as she joined in less with the group, but when Tamsin started regular swimming lessons again, we thought it was time to try Sasha again too. Those lessons went surprisingly well, and after a few initial teething issues, and a couple of terms of me having to be in the pool with Sasha, I slowly withdrew and Sasha mostly did what she was asked to. As lots of things tend to go with Sasha though, the more comfortable she became in that lesson, the more she would push the boundaries and do her own thing. She refused to move away from the shallow end of the pool. It was clear she was not going to allow anyone to take her out of her comfort zone, where she was happy she could touch the bottom and therefore walk when she didn't have a float to swim with. Eventually, after 4 terms, we realised that there was such a big age gap (Sasha remained in the bottom group after she turned 6, with mostly 4 year olds) and as she refused to move up the pool we decided it was time to take a break on those lessons.

Despite all the time she has spent in water, she has never been happy with getting splashed, or putting her face in. Last weekend we took both girls swimming to a different pool we've only been to a couple of times. As Sasha is quite tall for her age, she could still stand up in it comfortably more than half way towards the deep end, and I think that really helped. She could see her big sister off swimming lengths and I think that was part of the motivation she needed. 

We spent the first half of the hour or so we were in the pool loitering by the steps, but gradually Sasha started to dip first her chin, and then her mouth in the water. Finally we moved on to Sasha pretending to be a dog or space walker, where she would just kick her legs underneath her, a bit like treading water. I could see where that might head, so I gently encouraged her for the next half hour and we counted as she kicked, with a new number goal to get to each time and lots of praise for even a second longer. We had had a chat whilst by the steps about how it is good to challenge yourself, as that is how you achieve new things. To be honest, I thought all that might have gone over her head, but seems some of it may have sunk in!

So for half an hour she kicked her legs off the bottom for longer and longer each time, with me trying to step away a little bit more and gently encourage her to move forward. Eventually we had to warn her the pool was closing and that it was time to go home. Suddenly she found the confidence to lift her legs up just a little and propel herself, and hey presto, she was swimming! Amazing! The best bit was seeing how chuffed with herself she was - like a lightbulb going off when she realised she could do it. I just hope we can go back soon so she doesn't forget.....

I also want to mention Tamsin in this post too. Tamsin hasn't always loved the water as much, but has thankfully always been good at putting her head under and holding her breath. We've tried all the lessons with her too, and even a few individual lessons in between, but nothing much seemed to improve her technique or her stamina and she wasn't able to move up swimming groups with her best friend. Try as she might to achieve the standard to move back up to be in with her best friend, it just wasn't happening for her and so she got rather demoralised. Around the same time though, Tamsin started going swimming on a weekly basis with school (she's Year 4) and the improvement in her abilities has been immense. She has worked her way up and we are really proud of her - and she is proud of herself, too. It just goes to show what a difference the right teachers can make.

Now I'm happy that we can go on a summer holiday where I will finally be confident enough to take my eyes off Sasha in a pool for more than a nano second. It was quite exhausting, always having to be in the water with her. No more woggle, other than as a play thing. Not sure she'll be throwing herself down waterslides just yet, but give it time. I'm hoping that once you realise you can swim then you never look back. Roll on summer!
I call this one 'giving the woggle back' :)
Linking up to #PoCoLo because I hope everyone will be happy for us :) and to Small Steps Amazing Achievements as this is definitely a great Achievement for us, and for Sasha, and also, because I am, to Reasons To Be Cheerful!

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