Yesterday, Nathan really wanted to go to the pool, and David finally said he'd give it a try. He's 12 now, and hasn't been in a pool since he was about five or six. Nathan's been teaching himself to swim, and doing just fine in the 3 ft pool. (We've got one of those homeowner association things, with two pools for residents/guests.)
I wasn't able to get in, because, since I keep getting fatter by the minute, I never seem to have a swimsuit that fits.
I thought he'd be fine, because it's so shallow. Still, I knew to keep my eye on him at all times, just because, well, I know David. Nathan was trying to teach him to use the float, but he couldn't get the hang of it. So he was mostly trying to walk in the water, but he kept losing his balance.
I was watching him go out into the middle of the pool (all only 3 ft deep), and all of a sudden he put his head under water. That surprised me, because it seemed a bit daring for him. He came up a second later and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe his hair out of his eyes, then went back under. He started turning onto his back and onto his belly, over and over, with his face in the water. He looked like a 12 year old horsing around, but I could tell something was wrong. He was thrashing about, but never seemed to be put his face out of the water and get any air. (Writing this, it sounds like I was just sitting there observing this for ten minutes. It was probably not even ten seconds total.)
I was sitting cross-legged on the edge, so I just jumped in and walked to him, and helped him up. He had lost his footing, panicked, and then not been able to find the bottom or know which was is up. He had swallowed a bunch of water and I guess breathed in just enough to scare him a lot.)
We got out and sat for a while. He was alright, but that experience really scared him. I told him later that because he's on the autistic spectrum, he qualifies for the special one-on-one swimming lesson, whereas most kids would have to do the group thing. He seemed to think that was a good idea "if I ever plan on getting in the water again, which is NOT going to happen."
I told him not to think of that experience as a defeat. I mean, he got in the water in the first place, which was pretty major. But it really scared him. I think he may have also felt a bit embarrassed, although even though there were lots of people in the water, none of them noticed. No one even noticed me jumping in with my regular clothes and running shoes.
It seems like the older he gets, the more he has these experiences where he's not able to do the things that his peers (and kids much younger) do. It makes me feel sad for him.
Once we got home and dried off, it began to really sink in that he could have drowned. I had occasionally thought it would be neat if we had a neighbor or friend who would take the boys to the pool while I go grocery shopping or something. How dangerous can a 3 ft deep pool be for a 12 year old? But anyone besides myself or dh would not know David enough to know that they can't take their eyes off him for a second.
Anyway, if any of you have kids who are water-shy, don't assume they'll be fine in shallow water.