We haven’t taken Twinkle swimming since she was a tiny, around a year old. At that time she had a bit of a love hate reaction - a little overwhelmed and cold but loved the sensation of the water.

Twinkle has sensory processing disorder and, although she is a ‘sensory seeker’, a full on sensory experience can be just too much for her - like a large busy swimming pool! – which, when you think about it, it is quite an assault on the senses! Immersing yourself in water puts a different feeling of pressure on your whole body, there are strange reflections all around and echoing sounds along with the sloshing and splashing noises of the water.

Twinkle is also very long and lean and feels the cold, so water temperature is an important factor for us. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to stop going to the pool, it was just a lack of convenience and time. We moved to a new area just after Twinkle’s 1st birthday and there isn’t a public pool very close to us with a warm learner pool. I initially intended to take her to ‘baby’ swimming lessons (often held in schools or other pools not normally accessible).

However I found that the lessons tended to be categorized by age and when I contacted a few of the organisations to ask if we could join the a class based on ability rather than age, they were very non-committal, not negative exactly, but I was told that the swimming teacher would have decide, and I just didn’t get a very ‘inclusive’ or welcoming vibe so I didn’t take my queries any further.

And so, time went on and Twinkle is now 4 years old, and we hadn’t tried swimming again until last week. We were on holiday at a small complex with a small swimming pool.

The first day I took Twinkle’s 18 month old brother into the pool as a guinea pig – he has more natural insulation than Twinkle! The water was pretty chilly! It took me a good few minutes to submerge myself, so I didn’t think it was a good idea for Twinkle to come in.

However as the holiday went on I began to feel it would be such a waste of a lovely opportunity to get a pool to ourselves, and we decided to give it a try! I really just intended for Twinkle to have some fun paddling and kicking her legs in the water….however this resulted in much excitement and she didn’t seem too bothered by the cold, so I gradually lowered her further and further into the water until she was in up to her shoulders – still giggling, waving her arms and kicking her legs! SHE LOVED IT! She was so animated and excited, but not in an over stimulated way, in a lovely ‘in her element’ kind of way, like she had been returned to her natural environment…….like a wee mermaid!

As soon as we came out of the water, my husband said “she is like the mermaid in the film Splash! Awkward on land, speaks in high pitched squeals, but put her in the water…..!” I had come across a disabled children’s swimming club’s website a few months ago about some sessions held near us, but we’d never got around to actually going.

However after last week’s success we had to try it! We went along this morning and it was fantastic! It’s at a hydrotherapy pool, so it’s lovely and warm, small, so not too overwhelming and not many other people. And of course the other families who were there were all a little bit like ours! As well as the swimming opportunity it was lovely to talk to other mums and dads of children with a wide range of disabilities and we even met some who are attending the school Twinkle is due to start in September!

And of course, as it’s a pool set up for people with disabilities, so they had hoists and changing tables! Crazy that I hadn’t even considered that aspect! It’s just normal for us to ‘make do’ with ‘normal’ facilities wherever we go – it was amazing to be able to dry and change Twinkle on a raised padded changing table, rather than change her perched her on a slatted wooden bench then cling onto her with one hand, or block her from rolling off with my leg, while trying to get dry and dressed myself!

I am so excited by our new find and we will most definitely be going back and see how our wee mermaid develops in the water!

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