14 November 2015

4 Similarities between Diving and Having a Special Needs Child

Ian and I were avid divers before we had Vera.

Recently, I was musing how diving and having a special needs child have several things in common. 

(This post will make more sense to you if you've dived before.)

1. "Descending": going underwater

Having a special needs child is like going underwater in many ways. You are rolling along, going mostly forward in your life, and when you suddenly have a special child, you pretty much stop in your tracks and go down deep instead. You "descend" into a different space, and like in diving, learn to breathe in a whole new way - through your mouth instead of nose. The experience is alien at first and it takes some getting used to, but it gets more natural with time.

2. "Buoyancy": the ability to maintain your position underwater

At first, it's hard to find the right balance. The early days of parenting a special child are akin to a novice diver going up down up down underwater, pumping too much air into his buoyancy jacket and floating up, releasing too much air and sinking down. With time, you realise that your own body has the ability to fill with air, and you can control your own buoyancy, by acutely tuning in to your own breathing. This is the stage where you get a hang of caring for your special child, and realise that you finally can breathe slower and easier. 

3. "Decompression": the act of staying motionless in the water to allow nitrogen to leave the body

Just as nitrogen builds up in a diver's body the longer he stays underwater, stress builds up in any caregiver of a special child. There are so many burn-out factors: day-long heavy lifting, dealing with behavioural challenges, or events such as seizures or vomiting in the night. Every caregiver needs "decompression time" before they can ascend to the surface. (A much needed massage is in order?)

4. "Buddy System": the process of having mutual support during a dive

Every diver who values his life will go down with a buddy. The special needs journey is hard to walk solo. A partner who pulls his or her weight, a trusted caregiver, are crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome for the special needs child. 

While life is pleasant for those on land, those who have ever dived into the world of a special needs child will know that it holds deep mystery and a pure, raw beauty. Our life happens at half the pace, so that we can appreciate every movement, every expression in the amazing ones before us.