How to Spoil a Special Swimmer

Natty is one very special swimmer indeed.  She's also very good at surprises...

How to encourage a special swimmer

Since her naso-gastric tube was removed, she'd had her jabs and the all clear from our GP, Natty has been a little mermaid.  From splashing in the bath, to languishing under a shower, to sitting in the Caribbean Sea with her toes in the sand to taking swimming lessons, she just loves being in the water.

Now her approach to learning to swim has not been what you might call orthodox. It was tricky to sign up to lessons when she had frequent respiratory infections when she was younger. So we used to take her swimming by ourselves whenever she was well. 

You might find our tips for encouraging a child with special needs to swim useful here. 

Natty has always favoured swimming underwater, which we found scary, it was hard to let go, but we soon realised that she could do do a few strokes that way, before needing help to come to the surface. (Do be careful as some children aspirate water doing this).

On one particular trip to our local pool she siddled up to a group lesson going on. Being a visual learner and naturally inquisitive, she sat next to the teacher and watched. I'm not sure the lady was used to having her lessons gate-crashed, but she let Natty jump in with the others. While the students swam a width, I warned the teacher Natty couldn't swim more than 3 or 4 strokes. I suggested she got out, but Natty threw me a look that I'm now familiar with. The one that says, 'I've waited until I knew I could do it, and until I have the optimum audience. Now watch me.'

You guessed it, she swam right across the pool, unaided. I cried. Other mums cried, the teacher had a tear in her eye. Natty had surprised us all and she was hungry for more.

That was 2 years ago and we've had lessons with this aquatic miracle worker ever since. Natty developed her strength and technique and can swim a width with ease, on top of the water too, and she's been working up to a length of a small holiday park pool, although she tended to stop at the side for little breathers a couple of times en route.

The Down's Syndrome Association got wind of her dolphin-like passion, and filmed this little clip of her and her friend Ella as part of the World Down Syndrome Day celebrations.

That was a couple of weeks ago. And watching that film got her thinking...

This time it was school swimming lessons. The stage was set, the audience was there in the form of TAs and teachers and there were plenty of peers to copy. Natty's target was a length, but this time an olympic size pool, that's 25 meters long if you didn't realise. We were nervous. Could she do it in one go?

When I collected her from school that afternoon her support worker was beaming,"She did it!"
"She swam a length?"

I scooped Natty into my arms and squashed a kiss onto her rosy cheek. She looked exhausted from all the effort, her hair still smelling of chlorine and crisps crunched in the minibus.

"But she kept going!"
"She got her 100 meter badge!" 
"4 lengths!" I couldn't believe it.

"Yes, she just followed her friend Marie, but she didn't stop there."
My face crumpled into a puzzled expression.
"She kept going, she swam for 45 minutes. She did the best part of 35 lengths. with a few corners cut here and there!"

Natty went from never having swam a length, to swimming 35 lengths in one go! 

And once again she had astonished everyone, exceeded all expectations and shown us never to set limits on what she can achieve.

All I can say is that we have been in touch with the special olympics for advice on how to coach our little swimmer with Down's syndrome...

How to spoil a special swimmer

Our Tips for Spoiling a Special Swimmer 

1 - Sew a badge onto your child's swimsuit of bag so they can show it off with pride and display certificates earned on your fridge door. Consider making your own.
2 - Buy a book about swimming to share at bedtime. 
3 - Take them for a special swim treat at a fun pool with flumes or inflatables.
4 - Buy them a new swim suit, goggles, themed swim hat or make a funky kit bag to put it all in. 
5 - Throw a 'pool party' at home. Dress up, have a friend round and make hawaiian garlands or eat a picnic on a beach towel.

And just as luck would have it, Frugi Organic Clothing sent us a stunning Sally swimsuit in seaside flower spot, worth £18, to try for size.  It even has a pro racing back for the distance swimmer.

What a perfect treat! Thank you Frugi!

The new range are made from Oeko-Tex and are UPF 50+ as well as being chlorine safe, so I think it will be a firm fave on the beach, in the garden and when clocking up the distance training in the pool this Summer.

As part of the #FrugiFamily swimwear project, do dive over to Globalmouse Travels blog to see what splashing fun they are having with their costume choices.

Thank you for spoiling our special swimming #FrugiFamily

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