Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Water Safety (Mom Panic)

I think it's a well-known fact in my family that I plan for the worst-case scenario...and sometimes, I do get fixated on it. Overall I think I do an okay job at balancing risk and Real Life, regarding Elena. But water has me spooked.

Fall hazards (and head/other bodily injury) aside, the pool can be a dangerous place for us. All of Elena's peers (that we know) can swim. I believe E will be able to swim one day--she does love the water. She is proud that she can swim in her swim vest. She swims doggie-paddle style, with me reminder her about "fish hands" (closed fingers) from time to time. She moves her legs as if she's crawling, more or less. Mostly I just let her swim the way she wants.

Last week she saw a friend's dad throwing her friend in the water--sort of a little toss-up, and the little girl was laughing. Elena wanted to try it. I tossed her a little--seriously, maybe a foot away from me, lifting her waist out of the water--enough of her body was out so that when I let go, she went completely under the water. Elena LOVES putting her face in the water, that isn't an issue.

But when her whole body went underwater, she froze (toothpick-style), and waited (while breathing in water) for the swim vest to bring her to the surface. When she was up, she gasped and choked, was very scared, and finally started moving her limbs as I grabbed her. It never occurred to her to swim or make motions with her limbs to get out from underwater, despite knowing she wasn't breathing air.

It didn't take long, probably not even a few seconds. But the fact that she was barely underwater, and had this problem, makes me extremely scared. What if someone throws her, like a normal kid, and she goes under FURTHER? What if she falls in the pool? Don't typically developing kids have the instinct to wrangle their arms underwater if they're in trouble (even if they can't swim)?

Elena is a smart cookie, so I think we can teach her this. Maybe this was a rookie mistake? Do all kids do this? Needless to say I had nightmares about E going underwater (all dreams ended okay, or else I'd still be a wreck). We're supposed to go on a boat this weekend. NOW--E's swim vest in NOT a life vest (which E WILL be wearing on the boat)--still, I will have an iron grip on my kids.

Anyone care to weigh in on this??


Amy said...

Just curious, was the water warm of cold? Cold water on a warm head could activate tone.

Maybe it was just a little shell shock that she was experiencing when the cold water engulfed her head too--which has never been totally submerged. I remember one child, in particular, who did this in swim lessons when I was a teen helper. He was a great doggy paddler, but when it came time to jump off into deeper water, he panicked underwater. (He was a very bright kid too--ended up in the pharmaceutical industry.) The lead teacher had to dive in and get him--same as Elena--deeper water.

I remember one instance, too, when I was a child. My dad threw me in, even though I was expecting it, and I froze--sheer panic. It was my first time underwater that way. It was different that I expected. (I recovered, and I consider myself a good swimmer today.)

I suspect that Elena will recover from this experience after you chat with her about what she should do when she goes under and how to get back to the top.

I do think this is common in many kids. Temporarily losing that ability to breathe (underwater) can be more dramatic than they would have anticipated. Coupled with that loss of control that kind of happens in (gravity-free) water can initiate a bit of panic.

Just my thoughts.

Beanie said...

I have CP and sudden changes in sensation kind of shock my brain and legs. It took years to swim my parents took me to swimming lessons for years. Try not to pass your fears onto her. I think that she will get it.

AZ Chapman said...

2 words

swim lessons

jess said...

My mom would throw me at our beach house in a lake and I never went fully under; I just kinda went face first. Try doing it in shallow water till she gets the concept of swimming back up to the surface. Odd how the vest wouldnt push her back up to the top. My friend with CP wore one and it did that right away when we practiced jumping off the poolside during lessons....

Joy said...

I have spastic diplegia CP, and have always been most comfortable in the water because of how much easier it is for me to move. The very, very first thing that I learned was how to float. When you get tired, roll over and float. When you get scared, arch your back and float. When all else fails, float. It might help to work on this with E. I hope she comes to love the water as much as I do!

Amy said...

Re: Beanie--GREAT ADVICE about not projecting my fears onto Elena. I needed that!