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The crystal clear water was wavy after all the kids started to jump in. The kids all filed in through the small door and could not wait to have their turn to get into the pool. The nine lane lines were all packed with kids who for some reason could not wait to complete their swim lessons. Those teaching these kids the skills they will use for their entire lives sit patiently in their lane lines awaiting the arrival of their children. Kids from 18 months to 12 years old, boys and girls, range throughout the pool. I sit in lane nine, waiting patiently for my last kid of the day to show up. On any other Sunday I would have been home now, however on this particular Sunday, I was asked to stay for two more hours to teach swimming lessons. Up to this point I have been teaching for about two months and I like my job. I get to partake in children’s lives by teaching them useful skills. Like everyone else we are all fairly new to teaching. Through the window I can see my next student.
The clock read 1:35 therefore they were late. The student did not look familiar and it was particularly odd that this class was a private 1 on 1 class. Teaching swim lessons had become a second nature, however, I was not prepared for what was ahead of me. The boy walked into the pool area clutching his mom’s hand. He looked nervous and his mom had a look of overwhelming stress on her face. The moment she reached me her son had already jumped in the pool, something that is discouraged. As I went to retrieve him she gave me a fake chuckle. “Hi Mr. Jonathan- I am sorry about that. His name is Javier, he’s twelve years old and he has autism. He has little to no swim experience at all and it is very hard to grasp what people tell him. But I heard you were the best teacher when it comes to working one on one with boys. See you what you can do with him.” I made sure not to panic. I was usually good in these types of high-pressure situations. Especially in this one, where it was important I didn’t overreact. If I didn’t preform my job well, the face of the company and all of the company’s values would be almost worthless.
Little did I know, the child did not talk and eventually would have a hard time comprehending what I was going to teach him.
“Okay buddy, hop in the pool. We’re just going to start with basic kick”
Before I could finish he grabbed the kick board, jumped in the water and started kicking. In any other situation if this were to happen the kid would have to sit on the side of the pool but I knew this was going to have to be a different situation. Punishing the kid for not knowing any better was not the solution to this. That would just end up making the parents upset and the kid as well would be saddened. I did not want it to seem as if the child was controlling the class, but it is hard when the kid is only four years younger than you and has a hard time comprehending directions. “Okay buddy from here on out we’re going to listen to everything that Mr. Jonathan says. If you listen, you get a ribbon at the end, easy as that. If not, no ribbon at the end! I promise you we’ll have fun but the first rule to having fun is listening to directions.” I knew he couldn’t speak to me but I at least hoped at this point that he listened to me.
I stayed calm throughout the entire lesson. It was essential for me to be firm with how I ran the class. If I were to let the kid take advantage of me and go against the curriculum, everything would be pointless. I could tell the kid was gradually starting to become more comfortable with everything. We worked on kicking the entire length of the pool, elementary backstroke, and breaststroke kicks. It was not easy trying to explain the concepts to him and trying to control him throughout the entire lesson. He tended to get frustrated himself and hit the water and himself. I tried to make sure we did not draw too much attention to ourselves, because often times I found myself telling him to relax because he would yell and scream. The last five of the lesson were near and his mom was coming into the pool area. I could see she was crying, I was not sure if she was just upset with how her son did today or if they were tears of joy. “Thank you- thank you for working with him today. I know it is not easy and you only worked with him for 30 minutes versus I’m with him practically all the time.” I didn’t know how to respond this, I had never really dealt with a crying parent before. But I was proud of myself because by the end of this I had received a round of applause by the rest of the staff for remaining calm during the lesson and doing such a good job. I like to think of this being the transition into my adulthood from childhood. Not anyone can get into a pool and teach someone how to swim, nonetheless one with autism.
There is no specific transition into adulthood. Nobody wakes up one day and says to himself or herself that he or she think they have transitioned into adulthood. It just doesn’t happen, and often times a specific occasion mark the transition into adulthood for people. For me, taking the responsibilities of those much older than me and doing it so well marks my journey into adulthood. Not everyone has the confidence to teach those with autism, or swim lessons alone. I am proud of myself knowing I did such good job in a key situation
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