Autism inclusion doesn’t stop when it’s hard

Autism inclusion doesn’t stop at Level 1 Autism, it doesn’t come with conditions, and it doesn’t stop when it’s hard.

Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in autistic children, and Charlie deserves a chance to learn to swim.

If you followed me last year, you probably remember that Charlie was kicked out of swimming lessons because the 1:1 aides provided by the so-called inclusion department weren’t willing to work with him because of his behaviors. At the time, his main behaviors were being too excited (jumping up and down/squealing with excitement) and not wanting to leave the pool.

I gave them a second chance this year because they seemed to have gotten their act together. They evaluated Charlie before lessons started to design a care plan for him. I hadn’t heard back from them on the first day of swimming, so I hired Charlie’s babysitter to swim with him. I figured she could show the 1:1 provided by the city’s inclusion department how to care for Charlie. The 1:1 never showed up. Mistakes happen (often, clearly), so I followed up with the inclusion department. 

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They replied with the results of Charlie’s assessment: needing maximal support and a 2:1 ratio.

That sounds fantastic, right? Except they’re only providing one person, and it’s on me to hire the second person (in addition to the original cost of those inclusive swimming lessons). That’s four times a week for eight weeks—you do the math.

I told them I was comfortable with Charlie being with their 1:1 only, but they require a second person and aren’t allowing Charlie to come to swimming lessons unless a second person is with him. 

We don’t have grandparents or friends who live here and can be in the pool with Charlie four nights a week. That’s not a realistic expectation for most families, let alone a family with two other children who also require support.

So, yup, one more time, the inclusion department is not being inclusive. They would have no problem including a child like Jude, who has level 1 autism, but not a child with level 3 autism. 

I don’t have any energy left to fight this battle. They’re borderline on ADA laws, and they know it. 

I will take Charlie to the pool myself when I can, his grandparents will take him when they are in town in July, and we’ll hire a babysitter to take him once a week. None of us are swim teachers, but we’ll do our best.

Water safety is too important, and it’s a shame they’re making it unattainable and unaffordable. But to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want my child with people who fought so hard to find loopholes to exclude him. 

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  • Reply
    Don R Holloway
    2024-06-07 at 12:58 PM

    I read this article with sadness. It hurts to know that Charlie was excluded because of conditions that are beyond anyone’s control. I love Charlie very much. He is such a beautiful child. But my interest in you posts go deeper than that. I have Asperger’s Syndrome myself. I grew up without a diagnosis because I was born in 1952. I also read this and other articles because I have a B.S. Degree in Child Development and 17 years of teaching experience. So my interest in Charlie is both personal and professional. I learn from following pages and posts like this. I never want to stop learning and supporting kids like Charlie. By the way, I thought “Be the One” was your third book. Maybe I’m mistaken. Just wanted to show support for Charlie and let you know that he is loved very much by many others like me. Take care and thank you for sharing Charlie, Jude, and Billie with us.

  • Reply
    2024-06-12 at 3:55 PM

    I own a pediatric therapy clinic in Plymouth, MN we have a warm water pool for aquatic therapy. I am planning to add adaptive water safety classes and swim lessons. Would love to chat with you more for input!

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