Mainstreaming in the Ocean (#418)

Charlie’s educational program, as I have noted in posts such as The Mainstream and the Ocean, does not have mainstreaming or inclusion with “typical peers” as a goal. Until about two years ago, I did hope that Charlie might be “partially mainstreamed,” in music or library or other “specials” and in September of 2004, this seemed like it could perhaps be possible—but by November of that year, mainstreaming for Charlie seemed not only less and less possible. The very notion faded away in light of the calls from the school nurse about XX headbangs that started to occur regularly, and of the progress reports that had “minimal progress” or “no progress” recorded for every IEP goal.
Since December of 2005, Charlie has been attending autism-only ABA-based school programs and has been learning so much—-and has been liking learning and school. If Charlie’s teachers feel that classtime with his typical peers would be to his educational benefit, we would certainly be behind this. But, for the time being, a self-contained classroom is the right placement for Charlie.

But in the ocean, Charlie is in the mainstream.

Now that Charlie is nine, 4′ 6” tall, and 75 pounds, he is strong and big enough to handle being knocked over by a wave, or dunked under while clinging to a slippery boogie board, and to not get upset. Indeed, his head emerges from the water, he blinks a bit and dashes the water from his eyes, and turns to meet the next wave. Three years ago, Charlie often insisted that we carry him when he wanted to be in the water but the waves were too rough. He and I were wiped out and smashed upon the sand more than a few times (and I lost my favorite pair of sunglasses).
Today, Charlie often ended up swimming near a few kids about his own age, all of them hopping about in the water, ducking under an oncoming wave, timing it just right to bodysurf in a wave-crest. (Jim is always “shadowing” Charlie, except for the minute when the two of them were both boogie-boarding and Jim got a long ride all the way in.) Charlie being “indistinguishable” from other children and not having any “inappropriate behaviors” is not at all part of our educational goals for him but I have to say, when Charlie is swimming in the ocean, he is “just one of the kids.” “Just like any other kid.” Just a boy in the ocean.
“I think some of the kids were really watching Charlie and thinking it’d be fun to swim with him,” Jim said as he wrapped a beachtowel around himself and Charlied marched off towards the sand dunes. Charlie’s repertoire of headfirst dives into the water, long stints of face-in-the-salt-water swimming between waves, and other aquatic antics make him stand out.

Because he does some different things, yes.

Because other kids wish they could do that, maybe?

Because he is more-abled in the ocean.

4 Responses to “Mainstreaming in the Ocean (#418)”
  1. tara says:

    Charlie is a master ocean swimmer- I bet lots of kids would like to hang with him and learn how to dive in just like Charlie!

  2. MommyGuilt says:

    There are going to be lots of waves in the ocean of life. Some are going to knock him down, just like they do the rest of us. Charlie is such a great swimmer in that ocean, that he’ll be shaking it off and standing there, like you said, ready to take the next wave – be it ocean – proper, or ocean = life.

    Charlie – SO proud of you!

  3. gretchen says:

    No wonder Charlie looks forward to the beach all year long!

    I think I would be excited yet terrified if my son were swimming in those waves. I am not exactly a champion swimmer. I’m glad that Henry loves the water so, but am worried that I won’t be able to keep up with him someday. I guess that’s what being a parent is all about, eh?

    Glad you are enjoying yourselves!

  4. Yes, the ocean is life—full of life, with those fishes—-a world where Charlie feels confident and, indeed, can outswim me anyday!

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