This week's blog has been written by Gill Curie, who runs Turtle Tots Fife and is an exceptionally busy mum of three gorgeous children. She writes about her experience of taking her second child Niamh to baby swimming classes which resulted in her re-training to become a Turtle Tots licensee.
“Can you encourage her to kick her legs more? “ the instructor said. I could have cried. I was at a baby swimming class with my four month old daughter, Niamh.
Niamh was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus and had contracted an infection a couple of days after she was born which led to her developing meningitis. After two long months in hospital I had been so excited about finally being able to take her swimming. I had done the same swimming classes with my older son and loved them. I had read all about benefits of baby swimming for all babies, particularly those born with additional needs and I was determined Niamh would have the opportunity to swim. However, I quickly realised this wouldn't be the case. Her instructor knew nothing about her disability when we arrived (and by that I mean that she had one, not anything medical) and had no idea to how to approach teaching her in the class. I was so disappointed! Feeling frustrated and excluded we reluctantly gave up the classes. BUT, as I have learnt over the last six years, mums don’t give up! Mums find a way! I didn't want Niamh to miss out, and why should she?! Apart from the fact her legs don’t work there is absolutely no reason she can’t swim, she just needs to find her own way to do it.
And so it began. I researched! I spoke to countless swim schools and swimming bodies and the overwhelming verdict was swimming would be great for Niamh’s development – both mentally and physically. But with no swimming schools willing to allow her to join I made a life changing decision, I trained to be a swimming teacher! OK, I’ll admit it was not all driven by Niamh, although she was the instigator. The more I researched and read about the benefits of swimming, particularly for babies and young children the more inspired I became. I couldn't believe that this fun, family activity could help develop a child’s brain as well their muscles.
So, I re‐trained. I then made another life changing decision – I gave up my full time corporate job and I bought a baby swimming license. Life had changed and instead of trying to keep up and feeling like I wasn't good at any of it, I decided to change direction completely. My Turtle Tots business has given me the ability to do a job I love while spending time with my family. Don’t get me wrong – some days it absolute chaos....I have emails pinging , a phone ringing and a three year old have a tantrum in the middle of it all. But I am there and I love that.
However, through all my swimming training my greatest learning in all this has been achieved by swimming as a family. Watching my 3 children, Ciaran 6, Niamh 4 and Joseph 3, swimming and playing together is amazing. It is the one place where they are all equal and Niamh’s disability doesn’t factor at all. When the water is deep, none of them can touch the bottom so being able to walk is irrelevant. On her woggle, Niamh can beat the boys for speed across the pool hands down! The water helps support her so I get a rest from all the lifting and carrying that takes place out the water. It is amazing! Don’t get me wrong, my children are not naturals to the water or world class swimmers , they have their tantrums and refusal to get in the water like all other children....but that is the bit I love....like all other children! Even our swimming battles are “normal” and not focussed around Niamh’s disability.
You would be forgiven for thinking I am bias when it comes to the benefits of swimming but I can honestly say swimming has changed my entire families life for the better.
If you have a child with special needs and are unsure about bringing them to Turtle Tots classes then please get in touch with your local office who will be able to advise and help you.