I met Resa a couple years ago when she brought her son, Jack (now 12), to me for a swim lesson. I spent the better part of that half hour working on desensitizing him and just trying to get him into the pool. Jack has autism, is non-verbal and is a member of a very special family. I’m always amazed at the ripple effect of autism on families. This article from Autism Speaks gives information about some of the challenges that are faced…
Social interaction and communication can be difficult, so I was ecstatic when I watched their story take a very positive turn this summer. Jack and his twin brother, Henry, have a wonderful relationship. Henry started swimming with us and became a great motivator for Jack. He’s a patient teacher and a skilled swimmer, so he decided to join the swim team. Meanwhile, Jack attended surf camp and absolutely fell in love with it. These decisions proved to be life-changing for the whole family. The next thing I knew, they bought a big foam surfboard at Costco and ordered wetsuits for the whole family. Resa sent me these two photos of Jack on the surfboard with a note that said, “Jack and his Dad got their wetsuits first. I was the photographer. Henry was the lifeguard. The photographer position is unfilled now that Henry and I have wetsuits too.”
I don’t know Resa very well, but I’ve looked up during Jack’s swim lessons and occasionally seen her wiping away tears. She gets so much joy out of watching him swim. He is faced with so many obstacles in his life, and it must be wonderful to see him thrive and succeed. Resa is soft spoken, has a heart of gold and always seems to be giving, giving, giving. I was so excited when she agreed to be a project participant- finally she could receive. And, it got so much better- the lovely and talented Kehaulani (wonderstruckphotoghrapy.com) volunteered her time to take photos of Resa’s lesson.
“I grew up in Iowa. I didn’t take a swim lesson until I was 18 when a pool was built at a local school….I had to swim 50 yards and jump from a platform when I joined the Navy at age 24. I have not been in water over my head since then.”
“I avoid it. My family goes out every weekend for the last two months to play with my son’s surfboard. I don’t mind getting knocked over by the waves. I just always want to be able to stand up. We never go deep.”
Guess where we went by the end of the hour lesson?! Her words stunned me. I couldn’t believe that she had such anxiety about water, yet she put aside her fears to spend time with her family. Raising children is challenging enough these days. When you throw any special need into the mix, the compromising and sacrificing necessary to keep a family together can put a huge strain on the family dynamics and relationships. You would never know that upon meeting Resa. Like most adults that I work with, she was determined, pushing herself further and further. I kept reminding her, “You haven’t done this in 27 years!,” which brought on that beautiful smile. I am so proud of Resa for doing such and amazing job- and swimming across the entire deep end! She
stepped leaped out of her comfort zone for her family, and walked away with glowing self-confidence.
A HUGE thanks to Kehaulani for capturing the joy- she has such a wonderful way of showing so much emotion in candids! www.wonderstruckphotography.com
For more information on working with autism (or any other special need) in the water, please contact me.