There's no need to limit children with disabilities
When Josh did the challenge last year, it was a personal challenge for him, and a chance for him and me to say to other parents of children with disabilities like autism that you don’t need to limit them and don’t take what you’re told at face value about what your child will and won’t be able to do in their future.
Last year Josh did the Aspire Channel Swim solo, although I swam with him because he needed a carer with him in the pool, but this year he’s not only being joined by his youngest brother Scott, who is 9 years old, but also his other younger brother Ben, who is 13, is joining their team as well. All three of them are on the ASD spectrum; Ben and Scott both have high functioning autism and Josh has severe autism, mild ADHD and is non-verbal, with a few other issues which make him who he is.
Ben and Scott both decided that this year, after everything which has happened, and after doing a few other things over lockdown, they wanted to do more for others. They have made hopeful cards - masses of them - and have been sending them out to nursing homes and hospital wards. Scott says, “We all missed swimming, including our older sister Jennifer, but Mum filled our time with lots of things. Without our swimming, cub scouts and other activities we had lots of spare time to fill.”
They decided together that they wanted to take on the Aspire Channel Swim 2020 as a team but are aiming for 66 miles. As Scott said, “I can only swim a little at a time, but Josh can smash it.” Both Josh and Scott have now been swimming five years and Ben seven years. They all have very different styles; Ben is a slow and a perfectionist swimmer, Josh is a speed swimmer and picks things up quickly when he is shown what he has to do and Scott, well he’s so laid back he floats, he can do what his needs to do but does it when he feels like it!
Josh was so excited when we told him swimming was going to happen again after lockdown ended. We told him the night before, and he was all excited because he was starting back to school the same day. He didn’t fall asleep until the early hours of that morning and was up, washed, dressed, having breakfast and helping make lunches at 6am that morning with his swimming kit ready as well. We had laughs and giggles all the way to the pool. Ben and Scott took to it like they haven’t had six months off.
We all swim at Lammas Leisure Centre in Sutton in Ashfield which is part of Everyone Active. The staff have been great with all the changes; they posted a video on Facebook letting parents and carers know how things were going to work with the new Covid-19 restrictions in place. I was a little unsure how the boys would cope with it, and the swimming manager asked if a quick walk through the day before would help. I would normally sit at the side of the pool while the boys have their lessons, but I can only do that for the last 10 minutes of Josh’s lesson now. The boys are fine with that; as long as they get their chocolate milkshake or hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream after their swim, they are happy!
I don’t really have much experience fundraising but we are not a family who likes to give up. I’ve made some charity boxes with a sign about what my boys are doing and why on them and using my connections through work and golf, we will be popping them into a few places locally. The guy who comes to do our garden has taken a sponsorship form with him to help us. I post regularly on Facebook and I’ve printed off some cards with the boy’s JustGiving pages details on.
When asked for advice for people doing the swim for the first time Scott says “just do it, it’ll be fun” and Ben says, “It’ll be fun, take it as fast or as slow as you need, but you’ll do great.”
Josh and I both say that no matter what happens with taking part with the Aspire Channel Swim 2020, whether you finish it quickly or it takes you a little while longer, the guys and gals in the support page on Facebook will always have your back and will be cheering you on all the way.