Proud Little Mermaid

If any of you read my contribution to the Special Gifts anthology, you would know about our early experiences with swimming pools and Riley. The sensory bombardment of a locker room, a hot day, bright sun reflecting off the water, people splashing, the strong smell of chlorine, kids squealing, cold water, adult chatter. It was pure hell for Riley as an extremely sensory defensive toddler.

Throw a new baby into the mix, and us living in an area with no family what-so-ever for support and swimming was put on a back burner. Important, yes….but so many other things had to come first.

She’s taken private one-on-one lessons but it was a delicate thing. With her intense anxiety, if you pushed her too hard, you would never get her in the pool again. So, she’s eleven and still can’t swim.

We went for her second lesson this week with a new teacher. It is a different way to learn.

It almost reminds me of the floor time we did when she was little. The teacher rocks her like a little baby in the water. Riley looks completely blissed out. The point is to get her to enjoy and be soothed by the water. When you are tense, you can’t move your body effectively to swim. So by relaxing her, I mean REALLY relaxing…I swear her brain is being re-patterend.

As Riley walked over to the pool to meet her teacher Monday, Seth and I joined hands, closed our eyes and I led him on a gorgeous meditation, where we saw him and his sister on vacation somewhere beautiful, swimming freely, enjoying the water. We imagined Riley underwater like a little mermaid….pure joy.

After that we read a little from a Cricket Magazine someone had left on the table. The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go underwater up to her goggles. Mouth and nose submerged.


I held my breath.

The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go completely under water, remain there for a second, then come up smiling.


And then she did it again. And again. And again.

And I cried.

This was her second lesson. And no, she can’t swim yet. But she has overcome the most monumental hurdle, and it won’t be long.

Great, now I’m crying again.

Talk amongst yourselves.


This entry was posted in appreciation, Asperger's, autism, meditation, special needs parenting, special needs siblings, special needs swimming, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Proud Little Mermaid

  1. Chris V. says:

    You are so funny…. tears from me too….stop it… it’s catching…talk amongst yourselves…

  2. Melinda says:

    Oh Michelle, that is wonderful. 🙂 Porch night tonight if you’re free. 🙂

  3. Mo says:

    Cogratulations to Riley!! That face in the water issue is the biggest part. I’ve talk lessons for years and it is the the hardest fear kids have to overcome, not given all the sensory issues. Took my sister 3 sessions of swimming lessons to overcome that fear, even though she swam in our backyard pool everyday. Mom tossed water at her for whining. Did finally break her of her squealing whining habit, but left a great fear of water in her face. So glad this new program is working!! Keep it up, Riley!!

  4. KFuller says:

    Stop making me cry!! Ha!
    Took an entire year to get Nick’s face in the water! He still can’t swim but he can float! Congratulations to your mermaid! And also to Seth for his excellent meditation! Powerful.

  5. Dad & Mom; Grampy & Grammy says:

    We are so happy to hear of all the progress Riley is making. It warms our hearts. Keep up the good work, “Little Mermaid”. We are so proud of you………………

  6. Carrie Link says:

    Great, now I’m crying, too! Think there’s hope for Rojo?

  7. Michelle O'Neil says:

    YES! I do Carrie.

  8. Tanya Savko says:

    I love the milestone moments! How amazing and wonderful for both of you. xo

  9. Niksmom says:

    Utterly beautiful. Way to go, Riley!

  10. Kim says:

    Wooo-hooo! That’s awesome! Love this!

  11. kario says:

    I want to use this technique for EVERYTHING in my life! Please, rock me like a baby, fully relax me, and then teach me. Sounds like magic.

    Please let Riley know how absolutely over-the-moon everyone is for her!

  12. amber says:

    This process sounds amazing. Wonderful!!

    And I just love your whole stinking family so much.


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