When My Son With Autism Jumped in a Boat Filled With Water

You might have seen some of the viral posts about hairdressers going out of their way to serve children with autism and sensory difficulties. They cut their hair on the floor or they go into their car to cut it. Or how about the waiter who stood up to bullies being mean to an autism family because their child was a little loud? Today I read an article about an airline worker who helped an adult with autism who was having a meltdown. These posts resonate so much with me because my son, Jacob, is on the autism spectrum.

As an autism mom, I see the unsympathetic or pitiful way people look at my son when he is wearing headphones or flapping and making strange noises in public. Sometimes, it can be hard and uncomfortable to be around a child that you may not understand. Working with them is no different. Doing things outside of the “norm” isn’t how we are trained to behave, right? In school and in work, we are supposed to do as we’re told. So those few and far between people who go out of their way to do something “unique” for someone else stand out.

Our swim instructors are like that.

Recently, we found a unique place called “Captain Swim Navy” in Humble that offers swim lessons in a boat shaped pool that adjusts to the child’s height. It offers a safe and effective way to train all kids to swim. But more than that, when I called, Coach Matt said he wanted to help kids with autism and asked me to bring Jacob in. In fact, he was even open to being trained by Jacob’s ABA therapists to better understand how to work with kids with autism. Although each child is different, he went out of his way and adjusted his teaching methods for Jacob. They agreed to use simple speech and to break things down into small simple steps. Coach Matt and Coach Kelley even learned how to use a picture schedule and token system for him and other kids who need it.

Coach Matt and Coach Kelley have shown compassion and patience with my son. These coaches are open-minded and willing to adapt to the needs of the kids they work with. Teaching Jakey to swim has been on the top of our priority list, but his resistance to learning, matched with the incredible dangers of a deep pool, have been huge setbacks for teaching him.


These are the kind of people who may not realize what a difference they are making in the community and for autism families.

I want to challenge people to think outside of the box the next time they encounter a child with autism at their workplace or in the community. Every person has the choice to be the one who is causing a stir because of compassion — to be the one who refuses to conform to how everyone else is responding and instead step out to be a change-maker.

I am so thankful someone has done this for Jacob. In just a few weeks, he has learned how to float and hold his breath under water for quite a while! Through some innovative and hilarious techniques, Jacob has come much further than we ever expected. He wasn’t wanting to put his head in the water while doing the alligator crawl, but a mirror did the trick. He just needed to see his own beautiful face. What a stinker. I believe he will be swimming soon.

Many people may not know drowning is the leading cause of death in children with autism. With summer already here, if you haven’t started considering swim lessons for your child, I urge you to call around and find a place. If you are a swim instructor and interested in working with kids with autism, but don’t know how, contact a local ABA therapy company and ask for training. Many companies want to reach out and help the community so they have a place to recommend for autism families. Let’s join together to make this world a bit safer for kids with autism.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

5 Things I Don't Want to Hear as a Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum

Unwarranted parenting advice — it’s likely we’ve all given it and we’ve all gotten it. Some comments are worse than others, but as a parent of a child with autism, some seem especially ridiculous. Here’s what I’ve encountered: 1. You need to spank that kid. Don’t let her act like that. OK, so no one has said this [...]
Young man who looks sad looking out the window at trees

Man With Autism Says He Was Fired the Day After He Asked for Accommodations

Robert Castleberry, a former 4-H instructor in Camden County, Georgia, is taking his former employers to court for terminating him in January 2015, after he disclosed he’s on the autism spectrum. Castleberry says he asked for simple accommodations so he could focus on his work, requests which were denied. “The way the offices were set up at [...]
Blurred crowd of people

Dealing With Busy Places as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

Busy places can bring about a lot of different issues for me. In a lot of ways, they can bring a lot of stress and can also be quite tiring. It is also yet another thing that has to be dealt with, and although I will never be able to deal with busy areas perfectly, [...]
People with arms resting on table, papers and notebooks in front of them, having a meeting

When a Meeting Changed the Academic Trajectory of My Son on the Autism Spectrum

We received the most amazing letter this week from our son’s university. It said, “On behalf of M University, it is my privilege to congratulate you on making the Dean’s List for the Spring 2017 semester. Your high grade point average for the past semester reflects both your academic potential and your hard work.” I [...]