One moment in time.

Sometimes a moment happens in a day, and the memory of it never leaves you.

I am a very lucky person, in that I get paid for doing what I love.
No, not writing! I’ve not figured that one out yet.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/brisbanecitycouncil/7457239140/">Brisbane City Council</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>
I get paid to teach swimming.

A couple of years ago I was teaching a very small group of children with autism.
There were six in total, who came to the pool with three teachers.
They were all aged six and seven and were a mixed bunch.
Boys and girls. Some who didn’t make eye contact. Some who appeared “normal” but had their own special ways. All of whom had a variety of challenging behaviours.

However there was one little boy who stood out. He was the most beautiful child.
He had a head of blonde hair, and the bluest of eyes.
Eyes that did not register what they could see. Eyes that stared at the roof, or wandered as he shook his head from side to side.
This little boys fist was always jammed into his mouth, and I was told he was non verbal.

The first time these children came to the pool, five of them screamed with delight.
They each liked different things and one boy in particular was a very good swimmer, which amazed the others.
The sixth was the little blonde boy. He never looked at the others, nor appeared to even know he was by a pool, as he sat eyes to the roof, shaking his head.

As I carried him into the water chatting away to him, he hung limp in my arms.
We didn’t go in too deep, just enough to let him know he was in water.
There was no reaction. His fist stayed in his mouth and his eyes stared at the ceiling.
That first particular day I took him in about four or five times, never venturing too deep.

For eight weeks they came to their lessons , and a more excited bunch you would not see.small_5594698312
Five of them that is.
The sixth little boy remained aloof and alone.
To me it really brought home the isolation that autism for some can be.

As the weeks passed these little ones swam and improved. Eventually jumping in and swimming alone.
Each week I took my little blonde boy in and pushed him a little more.
Eventually he was able to submerge his body, not his face, and holding him in my arms I would stretch out his arm and splash the water or spin him around. I could see his little fist opening as he began to explore the water himself.
After a couple of weeks he took his other fist out of his mouth to make way for the giant grin on his face.

On our final lesson, I took him into the water as usual. By now he had begun to take his fist out of his mouth when he would hear me call his name, and he would reach out to take my hand.
This final day he even walked down one step. As I walked, jumped and spun with him in the water I could hear small sounds of happiness from him.
Eventually I returned him to his teachers and took another waiting excited child.

As I played games with, and taught this other little boy I heard shouting. I looked over and the teachers were calling me. I went quickly towards them, afraid there had been some sort of accident. The three teachers were standing by the steps holding my little blondie by the hand.
They hurriedly took my young swimmer off me. Then with high pitched voices they explained to me that as they had walked my little Β blondie away from the pool, he had said loudly and clearly “Want Tric. Want Tric”. These were the first words they had ever heard him speak and they were in tears.

Up to this they were not even sure how much of what was spoken he understood. Now they knew he understood everything as he even knew my name.

Needless to say blondie got his way and got another swim with Tric. For me it was one of the most amazing moments I’ve ever photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/31878512@N06/5093998704/">Neal.</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>experienced as a teacher. Certainly one I will never forget.

Sadly I never saw any of them again. Cutbacks in school meant they no longer came to the pool. On more than one occasion I have wondered about them all, but in particular my small blonde, “non verbal” little boy.
I really hope he found another joy in his life which allowed him to find his voice.

photo credit: Brisbane City Council via photopin cc
photo credit: Lance Neilson via photopin cc
photo credit: Neal. via photopin cc

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32 thoughts on “One moment in time.

  1. This is really touching. It brought tears to my eyes. What an unforgettable moment that must have been. I can only imagine how much that touched you when he said those words. That is precious, beyond measure.

    1. Yes it was very special. He did actually repeat my name when I came back, but that was it. At least I heard him, and it would give the teachers heart to keep trying to unlock him. It was just one of those very special moments in life.

        1. Oh I really hope you have some success with this. At least take heart she may have a little voice in there somewhere, never give up.

      1. Maybe it was just that there was nothing in his life that had brought him enough joy to want to speak. Maybe speaking was difficult for him. Maybe you are just the thing he needed to let HIM know he could talk. Touching story – thanks so much for sharing it. Makes me want to go and find him and his family and do a fund-raiser to pay for his lessons with you…. I so wish I could save the world.

  2. How beautiful. I had a cousin who was similar to (although not exactly like) your “blond boy”. Eventually he had a big lopsided smile that saw him through his much-to-brief life. I hope your “blond boy” found his voice and his smile again.

      1. He actually grew into a man and had a lovely life (he sorted mail for the Post Office). Unfortunately, we lost him a few years ago…he wasn’t the best communicator and got lost while skiing and never made it back down the slope. Very sad and he is missed.

  3. “Above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others”

    That quote above is from Angelina Jolie’s acceptance speech after being given an award on Saturday for her humanitarian work. It is wise words her mother often repeated to her

    After posting her speech on Madhatters, I then come here and read this beautiful story. You certainly made a difference to this boy’s life, tric !

    (Angelina’s mum would approve) πŸ˜†

    1. It’s a lovely thought Duncan, thank you. I think in some way the pool and the water and fun all got through to him. What ever the real connection it was one of the best days teaching I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some real beauties. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes I’d love to think his parents continued to take him swimming and it opened up a whole new way for them. I suppose this was a cheaper form of therapy than swimming with dolphins! πŸ™‚

  4. this is the most beautiful story tric. i had to read it again because i was crying. you are a very special and patient person who reached out to another very special person who saw that in you. i loved this.

  5. Thats an awesome story. I’m sure that regardless of where that little boy is now, that you made a lasting impression, shaping him in a way, that may otherwise not have occurred. You were a special gift to him! LOVE the story:)

    1. Oh yes I firmly agree with you. The right person at the right time can make a huge difference in a life. A bit like your time when you wrote about going to that camp and meeting a teacher or counsellor there who made a big impression on your life. I remember you posted about it.

    1. Yes I think you are spot on. It wasn’t me. It was the fact I was so comfortable with children and the water which allowed him to relax and let himself go. It was just the connection he needed, I suppose I was just the facilitator.

  6. Beautiful,beautiful post Tric.It makes me angry though that due to cutbacks this child and others are being denied vital services-services that don’t cost much yet can be priceless for them as we see with your breakthrough.

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