Three times a week, Lawrence, Josh, their father, I and Josh’s new TSS (who I really enjoy and will write a post on later), swim at the local hotel’s pool. The pool room is perfect for the boys, with both a bubbling hot-tub and a full-length swimming pool, a carpeted floor that makes great spurting puddles for Josh, and enough space to run around the edges arms a-whirling without hitting anyone. Most importantly, it is almost always empty.
Except on Fridays. Each Friday we are welcomed to the pool room by a very gleeful “Hello there! Welcome to our pool! Are you here to swim too?” Three men in their fifties with unspecified disabilities are also there visiting with their aides.
The men aren’t perfect company. They’re a bit too loud for Lawrence’s taste, and they splash around a great deal which occasionally gets in Josh’s face causing him to flip out.
But in other ways, they’re so much better than our conventional NT company. They don’t whisper about the boys every time we turn around. They don’t scream when Josh swims over, even when they have seen him be aggressive previously. They don’t run from the hot tub the second Lawrence tries to walk in, and no parent stands over them saying “We don’t play with boys like that. Stay away hun.” When Josh swam over, they tried to chat with him, and when the new TSS informed him that he didn’t talk much, one of the men responded, “Well that’s okay, X isn’t one for much talking either, are you X?” X just grinned.
Seeing these men every week gives us hope. Unlike the “Single-File Existence ” Deborah wrote about on Pipe-Cleaner Dreams, and which we see too often in adults with disabilities, these men are allowed some freedom. Their aids sit at a table from which they can see the men in the pool, and hear if there is a scuffle, but don’t hover as constant reminders that supervision is required. I was surpised the other day when I noticed that when X went to go change, he wasn’t accompanied by an aide, but by a fellow swimmer. The smile on their faces as they left indicated to me that this was a privelege earned, and their enthusiasm and pride was contaigious; I couldn’t help but smile back.
Of course it would be wonderful if Josh and Lawrence grew up to be fully-independent adults who didn’t require aides and supervision. But if this is not possible and they are enrolled in the adult day-care these men have joined, we’ll know they’re in good company