Sink or Swim?

What would you do if you saw a child drowning?  Jump in and save her?  Call for extra help?  Toss her a life preserver at least?

Or would you stand on the pool deck and shout to the child, “YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH– YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO SWIM BY NOW!  IF YOU WOULD JUST KICK YOUR LEGS AND MOVE YOUR ARMS, YOU COULD SWIM TO SAFETY!”

What if you were told that the child whose head is starting to dip dangerously below the surface, had something wrong with her that prevented her from learning to swim as quickly as other children her age?  The support of a life jacket could help her stay afloat long enough for an experienced adult to teach her to swim.

But at this pool, the use of life jackets or any other flotation device is discouraged.  In fact, this pool would prefer that only children who can swim well jump into the water.  They hope that the kids who need help swimming find a different pool somewhere else.

The drowning child, who is actually a very good athlete, is using all her strength to keep from sinking, but she becomes more and more distressed as she grows tired of the effort it takes to stay above water.

When her worried parent sees the situation and tries to alert the lifeguards, the guards don’t seem alarmed that the child is drowning.  In fact, they point out to the mother, “See, if only your child would learn to swim.  We told her she should learn how to swim. If she would just try harder she could save herself.”  They shrug.  “She must not want to save herself.”

The more the mother urges the lifeguards to help, the more reluctant they are to rescue the child.  Finally, fed up with the insistent mother and the lazy child, the lifeguards turn their backs, knowing that they’ve done everything they could.

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Posted on November 10, 2011, in Advocacy, Executive Function, Gifted, Learning Differences, School, Twice Exceptional and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. This is sad… I felt your pain in places I am sure only other mothers of kids like these (including myself) can feel… But I do want to say that you did write this beautifully. Your imagery/analogy is so spot on, so poignant of the type of senario that 2E kids and their parents can experience that it really helps in visualising the situation.. I feel you should allow others to share this story when giving Professional Development to teachers/educators/administrators in gifted and 2E Gifted provision. It could go a long way towards helping some understand this reality… I take my hat off to you.. a fine fine piece of writingg.;-D

    • Thank you so much for your kind words… helps keep me afloat, because, as you know, 2E struggles affect the whole family. We’re all getting pulled under too and right now, there’s no relief in sight. I would love to share this story if it could help teachers/educators/administrators understand what it’s like on this side. Sometimes I wonder if you have to actually have to be the parent of one of these kids to really understand what it’s like. Other 2E parents are the only ones who seem to get it… the overwhelming daily chaos, difficulties with school, the emotional blows to self-esteem, the frustration, discouragement… it’s a never-ending battle to get others to see your child’s strengths, not just the weaknesses.

  2. Yes. I am right there with you. But for us the lifeguards are looking down and requesting further evaluation of the situation, so they can CYA when it comes down to that. Meanwhile we’re gathering our towels, reaching for the life raft, and building our own pool.
    Painful to read this. Every bit as painful to live it.

    • How I wish we could build our own pool. I know that’s a difficult decision to make. I don’t think I’m even close to being qualified to be her lifeguard, although by now, I guess I’ve done about a billion times more professional development in this area than any of her teachers at the Ol’ CYA Academy.

  3. This gives me goosebumps. Amazing analogy, so visceral, and I’m sorry it’s like this.

    • Thanks. I’ve got my water wings on and I’m goin’ in!

    • For what it is worth.. I did read your blogpost outloud, to my last lecture of the year to a group of resource learning support teachers.. and.they.were.impressed… sigh.. I do hope it will make them think next time they run accross kids like this… again.. very very well written.. Les (@Leslinks)

  4. We are right here too- only the school sees our child’s strengths only and not weaknesses. They don’t seem to view things in near the same way as I (the mom) does. So hard.

    • Yes, to continue the pool analogy, if you have a kid who is a brilliant backstroker, they don’t feel they need to help with the other strokes. “Look, he’s swimming! He doesn’t need any help.” .

  1. Pingback: Jumping into a New Pool « Brainhugger

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