Help! My Child is Crying at Swim Lessons

      Don’t worry. It is very common for young children to cry at their first swim lesson. The teachers know what to do, but we need your support. Remember, swimming is not just a fun activity, it is a necessary life skill.


Children crying at the swim school is a daily occurrence. There are many different reasons why a child might cry. It may be a child’s first time away from mom or dad, or it may be a child’s first visit to the pool. Children even cry because they do not want to get out of the pool. Whatever the reason, we are here to help you and your child become successful with their swimming.

If your child is apprehensive at first, please do not feel embarrassed or unwilling to follow through with your decision to have your child taught the life-saving skill of swimming. Also, if your child is under the age of two, you might consider enrolling them in a parent/tot class with you first.

Please remember, it is more traumatic to drown than it is to learn how to swim. In fact, we see that the children who at first were apprehensive, are the ones who truly learn to love the water and their lessons. It is a huge boost for their self-confidence and it gives them self-pride knowing they are able to accomplish a skill that they once thought was unobtainable. Here are a few tips that may be helpful as your child transitions into swim lessons:


Please do not ask your child, “Do you want to go swimming?”  It is best to say, “Today we are going swimming.” It is best not to give them an opportunity to say no. If your child is fussing prior to swim lessons, walk your child out on the deck and hand them to the teacher. Then walk back to the viewing area with a pleasant expression on your face. Never make a teacher chase your child or pry your child off your leg, this will make your child try to fight more.  By handing your child over to the teacher, you are telling your child that you trust the teacher. That vote of confidence will help the teacher win over your child more quickly. While handing your child to the instructor, please avoid saying things like “Don’t be scared”, or “You don’t need to be afraid.” Using words like ‘scary’ and ‘afraid’ will give them a reason to be just that.


If your crying child continually looks at you and calls to you in the waiting area, break eye contact with him or her. This can easily be accomplished by looking at a magazine or a book every time he or she looks at you. By breaking eye contact with your child during lessons, you will accelerate your child’s dependency and bonding with the teacher. Feel free to take a peek at your child every once in a while when they are not looking at you. Keep a pleasant expression on your face to show that you feel there’s no reason for alarm. If the crying continues, you may want to step out or “disappear.” If your child does not have an audience, they may decide it is not worth the effort to cry.


Another way to react to a child who is crying for you is to put on your best smile. Clap, give thumbs up, and use encouraging words. This assures them that you want them to take swimming lessons and that they can have fun doing it.


Sometimes the teacher may place a crying child on their back while they are teaching the rest of the class. This can be an effective tool because your child will learn to depend on the teacher and feel more at ease with the teacher as time passes. Very often, this type of physical dependency is more effective than verbal reasoning with an upset child.


How long is too long for your child to cry in swim lessons? On average, most crying swim students have stopped after the third lesson. At the very least, you should notice that the crying is diminishing with each lesson. If not, it is possible that your child may need a private lesson. Some children are much more comfortable with the undivided attention of a caring instructor. Feel free to discuss all your options with the instructor or deck manager on duty. Just remember, your child is not the first nor the last child to cry at their swim lesson. Just ask any of the parents around the pool- they most likely went through the same thing.


note: I borrowed this article from Aqua Pros Swim School, San Diego, CA and slightly edited it to align with our philosophy at AQua Wave Swim School.

Make A Splash Tour 2014

BelmontA few weeks ago, my family and I attended the last stop of the 2014 Make A Splash Tour in Long Beach, California. We arrived a couple of hours late to the water safety festival at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool.  The temporary outdoor Olympic sized pool sits right on the beach, so the scenery was gorgeous on this warm, sunny afternoon.

Since we were late arrivals, we missed a few of the scheduled events like the Safer 3 Water Safety Challenge and free swim lessons. We still had a great time. There were games and prizes for the children, an inflatable obstacle course and a giant,  inflatable slide.



I wish the event schedule had been posted in advance. At least we have an idea of what to expect next year.


The children were given a passport to ensure they visited each of the water safety promoting vendors. There were fun things at each booth, like “Water Watcher” lanyards, whistles (yay – kids with whistles!), swim caps, and pool toys. 10 visits wins you a spin of the wheel for more prizes!



The kids got their picture taken with the Safer3 mascots – Sammy Starfish, Timmy Tadpole, and Gilbert Guppy.






Josh the Otter read his story to the kids.






















olympic panel

The Olympians quizzed the children about water safety.









Jason Lezak called on Anastasia to answer a question. She answered correctly and got some loot!

Jason Lezak called on Anastasia to answer a question. She answered correctly and got some loot!

Anastasia getting the back of her shirt signed. Anthony Ervin, Jessica Hardy, Jason Lezak, and Janet Evans.

Anastasia getting the back of her shirt signed. Anthony Ervin, Jessica Hardy, Jason Lezak, and Janet Evans.










The kids had a fantastic time at the Make A Splash event , and the turnout was great. I would love to see more families participate in water safety awareness every day! Please join us this Friday for the annual World’s Largest Swim Lesson.

A Drowning Story: Part II

If you haven’t read Part I, you might have missed something.

The Details

News reports of drowning incidents are just too brief. Usually, they report the location, age of the victim, and not much more. The reports unfortunately omit details that could provide some of the education that would decrease the number of tragedies.


This is why I wanted to give you the details about Charlotte. She is one of my students, a strong and confident swimmer. A girl whose presence can flood a room with joy and love.

Diane and Charlotte were at a mermaid themed birthday party in a backyard pool that was about 12 feet across. Diane tested her daughter, made her swim to the other side of the pool and back. There were 4 or 5 kids in the pool, and she sat with her family close by – all adults, all watching the pool. After about 15 to 20 minutes, as Charlotte was swimming toward the adults, she was about half way across when Diane turned to answer someone’s question. Just a few seconds later, her sister shouted that she didn’t see Charlotte swimming anymore.

Misconception: Drowning victims splash and wave their arms while shouting for help.


Diane was instantly at the side of the pool screaming her daughter’s name, no response. She thought she might be diving for a toy. The adults around the pool could clearly see Charlotte looking up at them. So she called her name again. No response. At that moment Charlotte’s uncle was already pulling her up from the bottom of the pool. When she was out of the pool and still didn’t respond, Diane went into shock. Everything around was just a blur. Naturally, when she had time to stop and think, after the chaos had passed, after she was safe under the doctor’s care, she felt some guilt that she hadn’t reacted fast enough.

Charlotte’s uncle, a paramedic, turned her on her side and water came out of her mouth. She threw up her lunch and then started talking: “Mommy, I’m sorry. I could hear you calling my name, but I kept sinking.”

We can reasonably speculate that she may have tried to respond to her mom while under water. Inhaling after speaking is an automatic response, which would have caused water to enter her lungs. She was likely only unconscious for a few seconds.

Misconception: If the victim regains consciousness, there is no need to call paramedics.

Truth: Once there is any chance of water in the lungs, the victim must be monitored overnight to guard against the risk of “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning.”

Charlotte was taken to the hospital and kept under close watch for two nights. She was released in good health, and is very fortunate to have bounced back to her bubbly self so quickly. The results that might have been are even more severe given her  health history. Born a tiny preemie at 26 weeks, she has extremely delicate lungs. Her water-watchers were doing their jobs. Clearly, they acted fast enough to prevent life changing results or a fatality.


Return to Swim Lessons

When Charlotte returned to her swim lessons, I took the first lesson slowly and let her lead most of it. She didn’t trust the deep end anymore. She wanted to stay in the shallow part of the pool. I took her where I could stand, but she could not. I let her hold on to me as much as she wanted, whenever she wanted. With my help she dove to the bottom for toys and let the water bring her up for me to catch her.

Over the next few classes we explored the deep end and I had her climb DOWN the ladder and float back up. I talked to her about holding her breath longer and not blowing bubbles. The less air you have in your lungs, the slower you will float to the top, or not float up at all. I showed her how she could swim to the top in case she forgot and blew out all her bubbles.

I taught her to never talk under water. Something in all my 20 years of teaching I never thought I would have to do!

On her first day back she was greeted warmly by all the instructors in the pool. Everyone knew Charlotte, as she loved to make her presence known! She asked Miss Marla, “How long will it take before I can be a mermaid?” I saw the look on Marla’s face. The Aha Moment. She asked Charlotte, “Is that what you were trying to do? Be a mermaid?” “Yep,” she responded.

She had seen The Little Mermaid once according to Diane. But she was intrigued, and knew everything a four year old should know about mermaids. When a family friend suffering from ALS lost her voice, Charlotte asked her mom if the friend was a mermaid. And now here she was at the mermaid party, playing her favorite character.

So we had to break the news to our beautiful little “mermaid in training” that she would only be able to swim under water for short amounts of time. That she had to come up for a breath once in a while. Because she is a mermaid who happens to have people legs and people lungs.






A Drowning Story: Part I

A few days ago I was reminded of an incident that happened last fall when my student, Charlotte* had just splashed me and I ended up swallowing some pool water. With her usual bubbly enthusiasm she said, “One time, I swallowed a lot of water and I had to go to the hospital and it was so much fun and the doctor gave me a toy but I lost it and everyone in the hospital is looking for it…”

It was a Wednesday afternoon in October, and I was watching my daughters in their gymnastics classes when I got a text from a co-worker.


‘Drowning’ is no longer a term used exclusively for fatal incidents. The use of ‘near drowning’ is being phased out.

I yelled out “Oh my God, no!” and looked around at the other parents in the viewing area watching their children through the glass. No one seemed to notice my outburst. I felt like I was in a foreign land: I had a million questions and not a soul around me could answer them.

Will she be ok? Will she survive? Will she be damaged physically? Or emotionally? How did it happen? Why did it happen?

I’m her swim instructor. I taught her how to swim. Her mom must hate me. She will never let Charlotte swim with me again. I failed. I’m a failure. I am in the wrong profession. I don’t deserve to have such an important job. Why wasn’t I there when Charlotte’s mom, Diane*, called?

It can happen to anyone, even the best swimmers.

I needed answers, so I left the viewing area and sat on a bench in front of the building. I cried as I called Sarah, who had sent me the text. That conversation is lost from my memory. But I remember feeling a little comfort when she told me that Charlotte had not only survived, but she bounced right back into her effervescent, energetic self. There was some comfort in hearing that Diane still wanted to bring her to swim lessons.

But complete relief wasn’t in sight. I still had unanswered questions. When you hear or read about drowning incidents in the news, they offer very little information. They throw in some safety tips like have a gate around your pool, assign sober, adult water watchers, and sometimes they even promote swimming lessons.

I always shake my head, knowing that more details will provide more education, which will lead to a decrease in drowning incidents. So I feel fortunate that I got to hear the whole story from Diane and from Charlotte.

Charlotte is an amazing swimmer. She is comfortable and happy playing in the pool, jumping in, diving to the bottom for toys, in any depth. She can swim several laps of freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke. She is strong and confident.

This day she was having fun in the pool with her friends, and showing off her skills. At one point she dove down to the bottom of the pool, but didn’t come back up. Diane and other adults were watching and waiting, and when it seemed like too long, like she wasn’t playing anymore, someone decided to pull Charlotte out.

If no adults had been watching, Charlotte would likely not have survived or suffered brain damage. So now you know why I can’t stop preaching “WATCH YOUR CHILDREN!” In or around the pool, no matter how well they swim.

I knew I had a challenge ahead of me. Drowning survivors do not set foot into water without a fight. Usually they are so traumatized it takes extreme patience and expertise to get them comfortable in the water.

So when Charlotte came in for her first swim lesson after the incident, I was armed with all the wisdom and compassion I had saved up for this moment. But she didn’t need much of it. She was ready to go. Ready and willing to swim some laps, dive for toys, jump in and swim back to the side. She was a little hesitant to go to the deep end, but we worked through that and found her confidence again.

Charlotte’s return to the pool probably wouldn’t have been so easy if it weren’t for her mom. Diane did everything right.

She never let Charlotte see her panic. She made sure Charlotte knew how much she loves her and cares about her.

She reminded her daughter of how proud she was of her abilities, reminded her she is a strong swimmer.

She didn’t place blame. It was just something that happened, like falling off your bike. We have to learn from this and be more careful next time.

She didn’t quit swim lessons or ban her daughter from ever being in a pool again.

She talked openly with Charlotte about what happened and listened when her daughter wanted to talk about it.

She was honest with me, the swim teacher, so that I could know to proceed gently and explore new approaches to solidify Charlotte’s confidence and awareness

Model parenting.

I still have not fully come to terms with the fact that one of MY swimmers drowned.  It helps that when she talks about it, she talks like a humble hero. Had she not survived, I  don’t think I could share this story. If I never heard the whole story, never knew why it happened, I would not be able to teach anymore.

When I publish Part II of this story, I will explain more about why Charlotte stayed under water that day. I will share some of the things we practiced to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I will tell you how SHE tells the story, which is fascinating. Stay tuned!


* Names have been changed.


Swimming: Necessary Skill or Too Dangerous?

imageLast month when I was doing research for my article on Water Safety Awareness Month, I accidentally came across a swim lesson related question in a forum for moms.

When I first read it a stream of emotions instantly flooded my brain: shock, anger, disbelief, disappointment. It may be due to my passion for educating every individual on the planet about the life-saving skill of swimming. The only words I could think for the next…well it seemed like minutes, but you know how adrenaline alters our concept of time…were “are you joking!?!”

In my world, it’s a question that should never be asked, but after I took a closer look, I realized it wasn’t from a concerned parent. It was simply to ignite discussion. And it did. And just about every answer given was correct. One even gave an all out promotion of the school where they take lessons (Emler Swim School, good people, we know them, small world!)

Ok, no more suspense. Here it is.

Swimming: Necessary skill or too dangerous?

Some moms view swimming as a necessary life skill their children must learn, while others think it’s too dangerous and should be avoided all together. And some in the middle could take it or leave it as a hobby their kids may or may not like. Where do you fall on the spectrum? Why?

See why I thought it was a silly question? I mean, I am aware of the dangers of being around a pool. And swim lessons do take place in a pool. Every swim instructor I have ever known is aware of the dangers and takes every precaution to avoid them. But I suppose there are swim teachers somewhere that don’t. Just as some restaurants earn good grades and others are shut down for rodents or roaches.

Anyhow, like I said, most of the answers were “correct.” But some were just unforgettable.

Here are my favorites – copied and pasted – no editing:

“Your kids will never fall into a soccer game and not survive. They could, however, fall into a pool and not survive.”

“It is far better to have this set of skills and never need them, than not have them and die.”

“Ironically the US Olympic team posted a video today of one of their athletes, a swimmer, who almost drown at age 5 while at a water park with his father. His name is Cullen Jones. Google him.”

“Crossing the road is dangerous, but we teach our kids to do that!!!”

“maybe if these parents put the bubble wrap on their already overly protected kids, they will float if they come across a body of water.”

And this is what I would have posted if I wanted to contribute to the discussion:

“There is only one danger in learning to swim. It is when parents stop constantly watching their children in or around a pool once their children have learned how to swim.”

And……… I’ve just saved some lives today!

So what would your answer be?

Water Safety Awareness Month

If you’re not in the business of water safety, you might not know know that May is National Water Safety Month (aka Water Safety Awareness Month.)



I searched several ‘awareness of the month’ calendars and didn’t find it included on any of them.  There were hundreds of subjects for awareness like autism, asthma & allergy, Alzheimer’s, and adoption. I found out that May is also National Asparagus Month.

I’m in shock! How can something so important be left out?

How can it be that water safety is not everywhere?!?

Water is everywhere. It’s unavoidable.
There are 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth
71% of the Earth’s surface is water
65% of the human body is water

Yet we have alarming statistics like this:

70% of African American children cannot swim
60% of Latino children cannot swim
40% of Caucasian children cannot swim
Ten people drown each day in the U.S.
Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of childhood unintentional death for children under the age of 14

Participation in formal swimming lessons could reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88%


Water safety education is not just about learning to swim. It’s learning and living by simple rules in order to prevent disasters and save lives. You don’t put metal in a microwave, you don’t stick a fork into a socket, you don’t put your hand in boiling water. Water safety rules should be just as familiar to us as these basic precautions.

If you learn nothing else about water safety, PLEASE remember these 3  things.

1. Drowning is silent. In every fatal or near fatal case of drowning, the victim goes under water without thrashing about and yelling for help.

2. NEVER swim alone. Even the strongest swimmers can drown. 

3. WATCH your child/children. Do not take your eyes off of them. It doesn’t matter how well they can swim (see #2.) Watch them vigilantly if they are anywhere NEAR a body of water- you never know when they’ll end up IN the water.

There are so many more water safety tips (I think they should be called rules not tips) that everyone should know. Read more water safety rules HERE.

Dozens of companies, foundations and associations take the initiative to spread awareness all year. American Red Cross, USA Swimming,  Association of Pool & Spa Professionals,  World Waterpark Association,  Michael Phelps Foundation, National Drowning Prevention Alliance,  and many more. Most of these organizations sponsor special events every May to mark Water Safety Awareness Month.

For example, USA Swimming Foundation, in association with Phillips 66, will kick off the sixth annual Make a Splash Tour on May 6, 2014. this event will tour 4 U.S. Cites and feature appearances by several Olympic Medalists. The USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative is a national child-focused water safety campaign, which aims to provide the opportunity for every child in America to learn to swim.

You can find more tour details HERE.

What can you do to spread water safety awareness?



Success Story: Adult Swim Lessons

April is Adult Learn to Swim Month


According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults can’t swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the 10 people who drown every day in the United States.

Similar to the USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” program which supports child learn to swim outreach initiatives, the Swimming Saves Lives foundation is tackling the issue on the adult side of the spectrum.

Adults who don’t know how to swim tend to either have kids that never learn, or unknowingly project their fears onto their children.

There are of course exceptions. I learned to swim on my own without lessons. It took me many summers, each year re-acclimating myself to the uncomfortable feeling of just dunking my head under water. I was motivated by my friends and the hot, humid summers in Virginia where I grew up. Eventually I was able to dive for coins in shallow water and then able swim around in the deep water.

In my early twenties I learned to swim competitive strokes, went on to become a lifeguard, a mile-a-day swimmer, and a swim instructor. Over a decade later I joined a masters swim team and competed in meets. And just to top myself I started swimming in the ocean (oh the cold Pacific Ocean!) Now I prefer to be underwater over anywhere else!

But my mom, who took us to the pool as often as we begged, and who has been supportive in all my swimming adventures, had never learned to swim.

So here she is, she has moved across the country to Southern California, to be close to me (only child- favorite child!) and her granddaughters. She has seen my husband and I teach swimming, and my mother-in-law too. She has been to almost every swim meet that we have coached, that our daughters have competed in, that my husband and I have competed in. She goes with us to the beach and the pool which is where we spend most of our leisure time.

And finally, at the age of retirement, she takes the plunge.

Her biggest fears were underwater discomfort and coordination. I tried to reassure her that she would not be expected to do freestyle arms, kicks, and breathing until she was ready.

At AQua Wave we are so fortunate to have Bunny, our adult swim teacher. She has the knowledge, experience, and patience to start from the beginning and help her students through their progression at their own pace. I have seen a lot of success stories come from her teaching, but had never been aware of the triumphs of every single lesson until my mom started hers.

I could see her beaming with pride after each accomplishment, and she would always ask me why I was laughing. “Mom, I am laughing because I am so proud of you, and it brings me so much joy to see someone learning to swim, especially someone I love. That’s why I love my job.” My giggles hide my tears.

There are many approaches to adult learn-to-swim programs. These short videos show some highlights of our program and my mom’s learn-to-swim success story.

After getting comfortable with going under water, adults go through a progression that includes the Universal Float, recovering to standing position, basic propulsion, and breathing techniques.


Later swim students learn to back float and move into Universal Float from that position.


After about 5 months, she swims laps of freestyle, and she makes it look so easy! And that’s my youngest daughter (Adrienne, 9) swimming along, assisting the instructor.



A little more information about Swimming Saves Lives.


7 Things to Look for in a Learn To Swim Program

So you’ve decided to enroll your child in swim lessons. Smart choice! For some parents this is a no-brainer. Their child has been begging to go swimming and can’t wait to hop in the pool. Other parents have put off this moment as long as they could. Understandable, because their children might not be as eager about swimming.

IP class

You can maximize your child’s excitement and minimize their resistance by choosing the swim program that best fits your needs.

You must do some research before choosing a swim lesson program for your child. Here’s what you should look for.

1. Reputation. We are so lucky to have resources like Yelp and Google Reviews to rely on when searching for a restaurant, dentist, auto mechanic, or just about anywhere you can think of to spend your money. You can use rating and review sites to help you choose a swim program or swim school.

Pair this research with recommendations from people you know. Especially parents whose children currently have school, sports, or other activities in common with yours.

2. Facility. Visit the location and ask questions!

Is the pool indoors or outdoors? Obviously there are climates that allow year-round lessons outdoors and climates that don’t. Some will cancel classes when it’s raining, some won’t. Almost all pools will close due to lightning. Keep in mind that continuous swim lessons are more beneficial than a two week crash course. Would you sign up for just two weeks of karate or piano each year?

Is the facility clean? Note the cleanliness of the pool, the deck, restrooms, and the furniture. You may also wonder whether your child will be swimming in a salt water pool, but it generally doesn’t make much difference if they are in the pool for less than 45 minutes.


Don’t take lessons here.

Is the water heated? Your child’s comfort is important. It is difficult to teach a cold, shivering student to relax and discover their buoyancy.

Is the pool and surrounding area kid-friendly? Consider more than just safety. Pool toys and teaching equipment should be available, and learning to swim should be fun. If the students don’t enjoy learning, their progress can be stunted. Do you want to be the parent that has to drag your kids kicking and screaming to swim lessons, or the one whose children are constantly asking when they get to go again?

3. Viewing lessons. Do you want to be able to watch your child’s swim classes up close or from any angle? There are also advantages to being on the other side of the glass yet still able to see everything. Do you want to be able to communicate with the instructor before, during, or after the lessons? Most well planned swim programs provide any or all of the above options.

Hubbard Family Swim School

Photo courtesy of Hubbard Family Swim School

4. Instructors. For many it’s worth seeking out an experienced, mature and reliable swim teacher. That teacher will be able to recognize your child’s abilities and focus on them to create successful lessons. They will know how to motivate your child. A reliable instructor provides consistency. While you’re checking out the facility, watch the instructors for a few minutes. Do they appear confident in their teaching abilities? Do their students appear to be safe? Do they look like they are enjoying their job?

5. Class Size. Can your child swim on their own? I’m not talking about laps of freestyle or a stealth butterfly. Can they play around and get from one end of the pool to the other all afternoon? If not, you should consider private or semi-private (two students) classes. You might see 6-10 kids in an hour long gymnastics class, but safety is compromised with that many students in a swim class. Also, fewer students per class allows the teacher to adapt instruction to each child’s individual needs.

Will all of these children be safe while waiting for their turn with the teacher? 

6. Teaching Methods. Swim programs cover the whole spectrum from one extreme to another, like Montessori to Military School. You have your loving-nurturing-let’s-make-it-a-game methods or the strictly-goal-oriented-no-matter-what methods and everything in between. You as the parent know what is best for your child. Don’t hesitate to ask about the teaching approach of any learn to swim program.

7. Goals. Find out what the program’s goals are for their students and how they attain them. Do you want your child to be water safe*? Do you want your child to learn the four competitive strokes? Keep in mind it is much easier to children to learn swim strokes after they have become water safe*.

*Remember even the best swimmer is NOT safe in the water without an adult watching them at ALL TIMES!

Which Class Should I Take?

If your child is under three years old and starting swim lessons, you can chalk up another point for good parenting. There are so many sports and activities available for young children, it’s hard to know where to begin.

You may not care if your child joins the swim team or plays water polo some day, but by choosing swimming, you are choosing survival skills.

Now you have another choice to make.

For children under three years old, you are usually given the option of enrolling in a parent & me class or a private, semi-private or small group class. The parent & me class means you or another adult will be participating in the pool with your infant or toddler. The other class options keep the parents out of the pool and watching from the deck or observation area.

Both classes are generally appropriate for infants and toddlers. However there are several factors to consider when choosing the right class for YOUR child. Budget, schedule, siblings, and your goals for your child are just a few. (At our school, we do teach the same things in both Parent & Me and Semi-Private classes, and all instruction is modified for each individual child.)

If you need help deciding on the appropriate class for you, take this short assessment. 


photo (14)




Perspective, Praise, & Promise

Recently a few of our instructors participated in a full day, hands-on workshop: “U.S. Swim School Association Special Abilities Training.” The session took place at Aqua Pros Swim School in San Diego, CA.  Aqua Pros is owned by Tammy Anderson, co-author of  Swimming with Autism.

The instructors who attended shared what they learned with the rest of the staff at a meeting this weekend. We all came away with meaningful information, helpful teaching methods, and increased confidence. We came away with applications for teaching every child, not just special needs children.

After our meeting ended, I had a nagging feeling that there was something I needed to share with the staff that would tie together everything we discussed that day. Later that evening, it dawned on me.

At about the same time the Special Abilities training was taking place, Amy Kales was speaking at an event. She addressed attendees of Reelabilities: DC Disabilities Film Festival, in Washington, D.C. about raising a child with special needs.

Kales discussed the difficulties of raising a special needs child – the grief, the fear, and the exhaustion – as well as the rewards. It was her speech that I wanted the instructors to read. She embraces the privilege of being a parent of a special needs child. Her overwhelming optimism is inspiring.

Being Jack’s mom has allowed me to gain, suddenly and quickly, something that I didn’t have before and something that, in my humble opinion, an alarming percentage of the population lacks—perspective.”

per·spec·tive   pərˈspektiv   The true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.

As instructors, it is easy to get caught up in our lessons and become consumed with the goals we have for our students. We sometimes struggle to keep from losing our patience or becoming frustrated. In her words, Kales reminds us to re-evaluate the relative importance of things.

“Being Jack’s mom makes me remember to SLOW down and celebrate the small moments. 

Every step, no matter how big or how small, brings you closer to your destination. Every step is worthy of praise. Every child needs continuous approval in order to build confidence. Confidence is necessary for determination. It is our job as teachers to make sure our students receive all the encouragement they need for success.

“Being Jack’s mom has made me realize that you should never ever allow anyone to set limits for you

Jack has accomplished tasks that we take for granted, in spite of his doctor’s prognosis. His mother celebrates each of her son’s milestones, encouraging him to thrive at his own pace. Kales reminds us that a child’s success should not be measured by a standard set of expectations, but by their happiness and personal fulfillment. We should not teach children about limitations, we should teach them about possibilities.

“I realize how much we should celebrate these small milestones and victories. What is life, really, but a series of steps—some big and some small? All are worthy of being celebrated”

Our instructors need to read this speech. Every swim instructor needs to read it. Every teacher, every parent, every human being should read it. Read the whole speech here.

meme-3            Motivational-quotes

*Amy Kales is also a partner at Kales & Kales, PLC, a collaborative divorce firm in Northern Virginia. She inspires me with her ability to balance her career, volunteer work, three children, marriage, and sometimes a social life.

**I couldn’t have written this article without the contributions of Lauren Agar and Erica Schrenker.