Julia at the Y. For a full session (6 weeks, I think) and the first lesson of the second session, Julia has been taking advantage of her instructors. They are very nice people. Allen has worked with all sorts of disabled kids, his assistant ( a very young woman) is very willing. Julia has gotten use to the instructors and minimally has done what they have asked but more and more, she has taken over the lessons and used them as play time in the deep water. This is a kid who probably could go through life in some other place without swimming lessons and be a very good swimmer, but here she needs to learn the standards.
I wonder about standards, which Julia fights against. I have seen it – the fighting – in many ways now. Sometimes just aggressive behavior, sometimes wanting her own way, sometimes using her survival skills, sometimes maniplation, sometimes just having fun. And then the standards we insist on and she finds so many ways around. She has to learn her letters and reading, numbers and math, swimming strokes and diving. And when she learns all the stuff we want her to learn – and I guess we civilize her a bit – will she be trying to bend and shape our standards and rules to fit her own ideas?
I think so.
Back to swimming. Last week, Julia gave the young woman assistant a hard time, telling her what Julia would do and what she would do and being very rude. I decided to pull the plug and told the teachers that they had to impose more discipline on Julia. There was no reason for them to treat her differently than they treat the other kids and none of the other kids would be allowed to sass the teachers.
As it turned out, there was very, very low attendance at swim lessons yesterday and the pool was almost deserted and very quiet. Julia had Alan all to herself, and Alan and I agreed that yesterday was the day “to bring the hammer down.” He started what should be familiar routine with Julia – using a floating barbell kicking from one end of the pool to the other. Head is supposed to be above water, arms stretched out, and feet kicking. She usually does a very little bit of this and then bobs and plays with the barbell. When she started that, he gave her a warning that she either do as she is told or have a time out. She didn't believe him and went back to her own agenda. He called me over to her and I gave her one chance and then she was sitting on the edge of the pool with me. She decided to do what Alan said and she was back in the water. We did this same routing a number of times but each time Julia went back in the water and did what was expected of her. Alan was amazed that she could do these things. I knew that she could. When I would go over to her at poolside to sit a time out, I would also stay for when she did her lap as she was instructed cheering her on as she kicked or back floated or used her arms in a sort of abreviated overhand. I awakened my inner coach although I admit to feeling a little bit silly cheerig from poolside. She even jumped off the block (racing starting place) with the help of the lifeguard, Alan, and I, and afterwards, said it was fun.
In some way, I was outing Julia. Stripping her of her defense, the survival mechanism that she uses with adults to get what she wants. I would not do this with an adult that she didn't know or didn't trust, because somehow I know that that would be too threating for her. I do not want to trounce her spirit, to break her soul, but little by little, I (and all of the adults who care for Julia) need to break into her survival behavior to be able to teach her. Day by day, instance by instance. And with lots and lots of praise when she follows our lead.