1 step back, and 6 swims forward…

T has had swimming lessons on and off for a few years now. Its has never been an easy journey for him in the water, and has quite frequently left him frustrated and disheartened. As he’s got older, finding swimming aids that don’t look as if they are designed for a 5 year old has also been a challenge. I mean, why wouldn’t a 9 year old boy want to swim in arm bands covered in Paw Patrol characters?? Disability swim aids cost A FORTUNE, FYI. Plus, they’re also not the easiest thing to find. J did some serious internet searching this year and earned some serious Daddy Cool points when he found this little treasure…


Swimming safely and shooting webs, whats not to love?! This went down a storm on holiday, I can tell you.

We left Thomas’ last swim school when the class sizes reached ridiculous numbers and T’s 30 minute swimming lesson consisted of 2 attempts at swimming and 25 minutes of sitting on the side of the pool shivering, whilst the other 22,000 children took their turn. Needless to say, T wasn’t in a rush to go back to swimming lessons. And this was before his Friedreichs Ataxia diagnosis.

After his medical conditions came to light, T’s physio suggested swimming as a way of strengthening his muscles. T was NOT IMPRESSED. I got full pet lip and sulk treatment. But, I promised him I would find him new school and hoped this would lead to a more positive experience. After a bit of research, we came across ‘Sportsability Swim School’, a new school in the area, situated only 5 minutes drive from our house. We decided to give them a whirl.

Best decision ever.

T is in a class of 3 with 2 instructors. The lessons also take place in a private pool creating a safe and comfortable environment for the children to learn. Before starting the lessons, I emailed the company to explain about T’s medical conditions and they assured me that they had lots of experience teaching children with a variety of additional needs. At T’s first lesson, the owner of the company made a point of speaking to me and telling me that she had undertaken extensive research of his conditions and had designed a programme to strengthen T’s muscles and build his confidence in the water. After lesson 1, T was buzzing. He absolutely loves it and can’t wait for Saturday mornings to swing round. Over the past few months he has built up great relationships with the instructors and has thoroughly enjoyed his intensive lessons, making steady progress with his technique.

This week, I was a bit worried about how he would get on as he has been struggling a lot with his walking and energy levels. We have made the decision to make his wheelchair a full time accessory at school, a suggestion which T jumped at; highlighting to us just how tough he has been finding things of late. This is not an easy transition to take in for any of us.

Today however, T swam on his own for the first time EVER. 4 lengths on his back and 2 lengths on his front. I don’t think I have ever seen him so chuffed. His smile, was literally ear to ear. I’m not ashamed to say, that I sobbed sat at the side of the pool. The other 2 mothers looked at me like I had completely lost the plot, however I don’t care. My amazing, marvellous and determined little man swam ON HIS OWN without a single aid or woggle. Something we weren’t sure would ever be possible, and a massive achievement for him. His instructors were every bit as overjoyed as I was. T, was mortified that I was blubbing and told me I was “far too emotional”. However, in the changing room afterwards, he told me he was secretly happy I had been crying tears of joy. He is completely wiped out now and I suspect will need to spent the remainder of the day resting to recover, but the smile on his face makes this worthwhile. I told him how very proud of him we are.

“Do you know what? I’m really proud of myself.”

You bloody well should be T. You are awesome.

We might have taken a step back this week, but we have also taken 6 swims forward. And anyway, who needs to walk when you can swim.


3 thoughts on “1 step back, and 6 swims forward…

  1. We are super proud of this gorgeous young man. He is beautiful inside and out with such determination and a wicked sense of humour. My teachers just love T and I too have had the pleasure of being part of his swimming journey – he is amazingly awesome 😊 I remember mum asking me if I truly felt that T would be able to swim independently – my answer was YES but it would take time – I too have cried tears of joy today – the day has arrived!! I am super proud of you T – what an absolute super star you are 🌟 well done Claire and Joanna, my wonderful swim teachers – you have made me very proud of your dedication and skills and the care you have for all our swimmers including our very special T 😊 Suzanne


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