Thursday 11 February 2016

Never prouder of last place

Swimming Goggles: Never prouder of last place

Today was Anthony's first Swimming Gala.  Nearly 100 kids with Special Educational Needs (SEN) from nearly 20 schools took part in a borough wide inclusive swim competition.  Last night was Anthony's last swim lesson before his Gala and as his awesome swimming instructor couldn't get to the Gala it was me who was going to practice his race swim with him in the pool.

Yesterday Anthony had woken up with a terrible cold and I was a bit nervous that he might not make it to his lesson. By the time I'd got back from the school run, I was worried I wouldn't make it. I pretty much went straight to bed after I realised my headache was a migraine. I was very fortunate that Jane was at nursery so was able to go straight to bed.  I was just about able to function with the aid of a pile of painkillers for the afternoon school run. 

As I collected Anthony, I saw his cold was much better and he was all set for his last swim lesson before the Gala. Despite still feeling rotten, I wasn't going to let him down, so donned a swimsuit and headed to the pool. 

I still had the after effects of my migraine.  The lights in the pool pierced my eyes, the sounds echoed around my head and the chlorine made me feel a bit (more) sick. The pool was freezing cold, or at least that's how it felt and I was desperate not to get any water in my ears in case it hurt. I wanted everything to go smoothly and like normal please - nothing too complicated. 

But this was all about preparing Anthony. He had worn his swim team track suit to the lesson and we got undressed at the poolside just like he would need to do today.  And then after a short lesson, he and I went up and down the pool as Anthony practiced his race.  When he was happy and tired enough, we went home. 

If you've read, A lead pipe, a ball and a pair of feet, you'll know since Anthony has had lessons, his swimming has really come along. But he was very nervous about coming last in his race.  As he was going to be the youngest in his heat today this was entirely possible.

We have spent the last week talking about how racing is more about doing your best than winning. We have watched the 2012 Olympic backstroke finals several times and Anthony has watched some of the best swimmers in the world come last in their races on YouTube. He knew it was ok to come last but he was worried about it happening. 

Two pupils went with Anthony from his school.  He cheered them both brilliantly during their heats.  I was very proud of him when he took the effort to go and see one of his fellow pupils to congratulate them on winning their heat. He said he was very proud of them, and that made everyone smile. He got a kindness sticker when he got back to school for that. 

Anthony had waited three hours for his single length swim when we were finally called to get into the water. He had been grouped with boys who were older than he was, which happens at these events. Anthony is in Year 3, but the event allowed for up to Year 6. 

We both shivered as we got in. Anthony dunked his face in the water and then got into the 'take your marks' position.  The whistle sounded and he was off. 

For a short period he seemed to be travelling in a relatively straight line. 'Big arms and kick, kick, kick', I repeated over and over. He swam as best as I've ever seen. About half way down the length he traversed a bit but was still going ok. I glanced over and realised that indeed, Anthony would be last.  I winced ever so slightly but not enough to stop my persistent 'Big arms and kick kick kick' mantra that we had practiced to. As we past the five meter to go flags he said, "I'm nearly there" and a moment or so later he'd fumbled a bit and touched the end. 

I immediately gave him a massive grin and massive hug and told him he had been amazing. "Did I come last?" he asked. "Is that ok?" I asked. "Yes, because I really did my best mummy." 

Ok, hold it together I thought.  

As we got out the pool to the same round of cheers and congratulations that every single swimmer got, Anthony squinted as he took of his goggles. He was shivering and I grabbed his towel (I hardly noticed the cold, I was so hyped). I looked around and thought how amazing my son was. 

Yesterday I'd been a bit iffy when I went to the pool, but the things that bothered me are things Anthony as a child with ASD, ADHD and SPD overcomes every single time he goes swimming. The piercing bright lights, the cheers and echos, the cold water and strong smell of chlorine. 

He's not only learned to swim, he's learned to cope with all these sensory battles, learned to cheer and feel pride in the accomplishments of others and learned that doing his best is more important than winning.  

I could barely be prouder of my last place boy.  What was the last thing that made you realise your kid is just amazing?

Our blog - A lead pipe, a ball and a pair of feet
Our blog - Autism and the misunderstandings of empathy

External Links
NAS - Sensory


  1. As you say, he's not only learned to swim (an accomplishment in itself)but he's overcome the sensory problems that go hand in hand with the swimming baths and that, for me, is better than coming first anyday. You're right to be proud of your boy. :)#spectrumSunday

  2. Well done to Anthony!! You must be so, so proud. He was the youngest, recovering from a cold and dealing with all the sensory stuff around swimming (I used to swim a lot as a child, actually, and entered a few galas but the thought of the noise and crowds still makes me feel anxious!) but he still gave it his all? That's a huge achievement.


  3. That's a great attitude to have. You have every right to be proud. Good for him, and for you.

  4. This is fantastic, I think it is amazing that he can swim and to take part in a gala is something else. We have been working on swimming since Ethan was two, it took two years to work out he had to kick his legs. We still have to use supports to swim but we know these things take time x

    1. David attends a special autism unit and they try and swim each week, course it's more just about transitioning and getting used to the water first. He's such a ball in the water and uses more floats, arms bands etc than we can get on him! It took Anthony a while... It's gonna take David longer!

  5. What a fantastic story of determination and personal triumph. Way to go, little guy :)
    x Alice

    1. I know, autism or not, I'm still a proud parent!

  6. Aww fantastic, well done your A! There is always so much in the way of sensory issues (not to mention the sheer volume of people) at these events so any participation is wonderful. Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

  7. Congratulations so you should be proud, great achievement X #SpectrumSunday

  8. Beautiful post and what a moment to be proud of. It never occurred to me just how many sensory issues there are to overcome with swimming and sounds like Anthony did amazingly well - the personal achievement from his point of view is so much more important than where exactly he came in the race. Well done to Anthony and thank you so much for sharing this with #ftmob :-)

  9. Oh gosh, you've made me cry! How amazing, and I am not surprised you are as proud as you are! Well done Anthony! I hope you are proud of yourself! Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely, I hope you join me again this week xx

  10. Oh Well Done Anthony, he's just totally amazing. It really doesn't matter coming last, it's wonderful that he was not upset about it. It's not surprise that you are so very proud of him. xx

  11. This is so lovely. And right you are to be so proud of him! Bless his heart. Thanks for linking two posts to #TriumphantTales

  12. This is beautiful - and brought a tear to my eye. Well done Anthony. He is a winner anyway because of everything he overcame. You must be a very proud Mama ☺ #TriumphantTales

  13. This is beautiful - and brought a tear to my eye. Well done Anthony. He is a winner anyway because of everything he overcame. You must be a very proud Mama ☺ #TriumphantTales

  14. awww you must be so proud of him! Not only did he overcome all of the sensory issues, but he is happy to be last, which not many children would be happy with. Thank you for sharing this post at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you again on Tuesday!

  15. Well done to you all - determination and patience wins everytime

  16. This is utterly beautiful, well done to your boy and you too!!! My children have exactly the same profile as yours, they adore swimming. I swim with them at a disability swimming club each week. Just in the process of organising our first disability swimming gala with them. It'll be planned like nobody loses, it's just about getting in and swimming 25m with all the others. I'll never forget my lad in his first ever gala that a different club put on, he had a shark fin float on at the time (was a few years back, he doesn't need a float anymore), all his team were on the edge yelling "go shark boy!!!!" nobody really knew who won as they were set off at different times, all participants got a medal at the end for taking part. Was super lovely! I wonder if there's something like that in your area that your son might enjoy too. I think swimming is fab for our kids (I enjoy it too!)


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