Monday, August 17, 2009

Watching the fears wash away

Interesting experience this past week. My son's nephew
is visiting from Dallas, Texas. The little fellow is 3 years
old and his doctors have been strongly considering some
form of autism as his diagnosis. It's been amazing to watch
him for the past 3 days as he experiences the ocean.

Each day he becomes less afraid. The tension that was in his
body on day one, as he held his father in a death grip, was obvious.
Little by little that grip loosened, that tension seemed to melt away.
First it was standing at the shoreline watching and feeling the little
waves. The occasional splash in the face, the push, the loss of
balance, even the falling down all became fun, pleasurable experiences.
The trip beyond the breakers with dad was initially a trip of terror,
especially if a larger wave forced them both to jump, or if his head
momentarily went under the water. Soon even that brought a smile.
By the third day the little guy was visibly loose and smiling as he stood
in knee deep water jumping as what was left of a wave rolled towards
him. He didn't quite have the timing down but he had the idea. If
the white water knocked him off his feet he relaxed, fell into the ocean
and awkwardly tried to stand up and right himself. It was clear now
how much he was loving every minute.

It is getting increasing hard to get him out of the ocean and ready
to go home. He really doesn't want to leave no matter how much
his teeth are chattering. He isn't struggling in a tense way all it now
takes is the promise from dad that he'll be back and his smile returns.
I guess he's forgotten the fears.

Watching the ocean wash fear away from an autistic child or
special needs kid is an amazing experience. Check out the web
sites for Surfers Healing or the Best Day Foundation or Google
surfing for autistic or special needs children. Volunteer for an event
or just go for a while and you'll learn that the ocean can wash your fears
away as well, make you less tense.