Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Swim Team

So watching Red's first day @ swim team I have to confess was a bit painful.  He's starting a week late because he went to camp last week. That puts him ever so slightly behind the rest of the team.  Now this is just a summer "team" workout.  It's supposed to be fun, help you work on your strokes and your speed, etc.  The facility is indoors, yet the 'garage like' doors were open to let in the sweltering heat and humidity.  For a parent sitting on the side lines, it was like sitting in a steam room.  I was sweating bullets! Watching him only added to the heat in my body.

He has this totally athletic-looking body, standing at about five foot nine and two-hundred pounds. When coaches look at him they see potential.  Not to mention that he is black, living in a primarily white suburb.  He is strong, but not exactly well coordinated, although, he is basically a good swimmer.  On this first day he looked like a deer in the headlights.  'Which way do I run? Huh? What?' The entire group starts heading down the lane and he's just there...not moving.  Like -'what am I supposed to do again?'  Logically you think, 'Well o.k. I didn't really here what the instructor said.  I wasn't paying attention.  Maybe I should just do what everybody else is doing.' No he just there holding up the wall.  I'm on the sidelines, (luckily far enough away that he can't here what I'm thinking) sending out into the universe, 'Move! Why are you not moving!?'

Finally he gets going, but he's definitely not getting what it is they want him to do.  Slowly he starts easing his way into it.  It's a great workout, but he is physically out of shape, which is painfully obvious by the way he starts out with power but runs out of gas about three quarters of the way down the lane.  As they move into the breast stroke, I see how much energy this really takes and I am impressed.  I am so glad to see his body actually moving instead of sitting in front of the computer or at the table gobbling down an oversize bowl of cereal.  Wow! If he keeps this up, even if he's not the best, or the fastest, at least he will slim down and loose some of the pounds that the medicine and his horrible diet have put on him this past year.

Afterwards, he complains about how tired he is.  He's hot and his stomach hurts.  I rave to him about how well he did for his first day, how proud I am and what a good workout he had! I entice him further by saying that if he keeps it up, he will slim down and have incredible muscles and "get all the girls!"  Of course he'd have to start smiling and not looking like he's mad at the world all of the time.  I leave that part out.

As he is drying off, I catch the coach who worked with him, who had never met Red before this day.  I thank him for taking the extra time to work with him.  The coach got more of a workout than he bargained for, walking back and forth down the lane constantly to explain to him what to do next.  Red seemed to only process one step at time.  Instead of breast-stroking down, turning around and back-stroking back.  He would breast-stroke down and stop, holding on to the wall, like he didn't know what to do next.  I'm sure the coach was thinking, 'Hello...don't you see what the other dozen kids are all doing?' 

"Red has Aspergers and he processes information rather slowly.  He also has a little anxiety with today being his first day and all." I said.  The coach sighed in relief, "Thanks for telling me that. What should I do?"  "It means you may have to repeat yourself a lot, which is a little frustrating.  Also make sure he's looking at you when you're giving instruction."  "Oh, o.k. great! Thank you for sharing that with me.  I had no idea!"

Red had told him that he'd been there last month.  Which I'm sure made the coach think, 'You've been through a month of training and you still don't get it!?"  I explained to him, that he was here last month for an "evaluation" not for actual practice or training.  Another light bulb went off.  'That explains a lot!'

This gave me an idea to write a brief introduction to Red and Aspergers to hand out to the adults who will be working with him in a teaching or coaching capacity.  You look at him, you listen to him talk and you think totally normal kid.  Then you see him in action and you wonder, 'What the hell?'


  1. Sounds like he may really enjoy the swim team though! I have friends who have children with Aspergers. It was all I could do to get them to even smile! But I found ways... They can be very delicate. What I often wonder , is why is this trend so large currently? How many adults are living with Asbergers?

  2. I so get the "looks so normal...what the hell?" bit. My almost 13-year-old is tall for his age and very bright (lots of background knowledge, really high vocabulary, great retention, etc.). He also has motor planning issues and the social skills and executive functioning skills of a much younger person. "Odd" doesn't cover it!

  3. great blog. We are going through the stress of the first practices of our first year on a swim team. Our son is only 8, a great swimmner, loves to swim, but doesn't get the team concept and has a hard time getting attention from the coaches in the proper context. your suggestion of a short intro to him and to Aspy's is a great idea!