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Jackie is a miracle worker!

Jackie Nelson is a miracle worker. That’s what my husband called her when we realized she had done what we thought was impossible. She taught our son Ryan how to swim. Why did we think it was impossible? Because Ryan was terrified of the water after a traumatizing swim lesson with an instructor who was not patient.

Let me explain what happened so you’ll understand. The swim instructor took a little boy who had started swim lessons at four months old and who jumped into the pool and loved the water to a terrified four year old. He became terrified of the water and he no longer wanted to go in our pool and play, swim or jump in. He became angry and difficult if we ever mentioned going in the pool to practice swimming. He fought us and would cry and scream. See this other swim instructor forced his head underwater and kept it there. Meanwhile, he was swallowing water. Every time she let him come up he would cry to please not make him go back under. She didn’t listen. This was a private 30 minute lesson and she felt she was the boss. She eventually got so frustrated with him that she let him out of the pool. He proceeded to vomit an incredible amount of water. The other kids and moms were shocked and one came inside to tell me what had happened. His instructor advised that I wait inside because he would do better and get into it if he couldn’t see me. This was common practice and I can understand that this does work but not for Ryan. However, I never had to go “inside” with any of the other instructors and he did just fine swimming to the wall and cooperating. This was her first and only time as Ryan’s instructor.

Now you know the background of why Jackie got the name the “Miracle Worker”. I remember calling Jackie and telling her all about Ryan and his fear of the water. I wanted Ryan to learn how to swim for safety reasons, but also because I wanted Ryan to love the water and be able to swim and have fun in the pool like his older sister. I told Jackie that she had a difficult, almost impossible task ahead of her and that it would take weeks, maybe even months, of daily 30 minute lessons to just get him comfortable in the pool. She said no problem and we scheduled a week of lessons. The first couple of days he was terrified and was difficult but Jackie was so patient and experienced that he got through those first few days. The following week he had another five 30 minute lessons and things were looking great. He was still angry every afternoon when it was time to get in his swim shorts to go to his lessons but he knew he had to go and he did. Jackie told me that Ryan could go down to two 30 minute lessons per week after two weeks of five 30 minute lessons straight. My husband and I were so surprised. He was swimming! That’s where the “Miracle Worker” name comes in. She took a little boy who was about to turn seven and who hadn’t swam in three years because he was terrified and angry into a seven year old who was swimming and listening to her. Jackie had become our Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s miracle worker. It might sound a little extreme but you would agree if you experienced what Ryan was like about getting in the pool and just playing . He was mean, angry and impossible. Who wouldn’t be after that traumatizing experience?

Well it’s been five months since Ryan started his lessons with Jackie and I think he’s going to be an Olympic swimmer. Michael Phelps watch out! Ryan goes willingly to his twice a week 30 minute private lessons with Jackie. Do you know why? Because Jackie is an incredible instructor. She talks calmly to kids, she doesn’t yell, she laughs and has fun, she makes swimming exciting. She makes everything Ryan does look like he wanted to do it and not like she had told him to do it. She’ll ask him what he wants to start with or what he wants to do next. She praises him when he accomplishes big things like swimming the length of the pool. Then she’ll praise him again when he swims the length of the pool in just a few breaths. She praises him just because too. It encourages Ryan to hear how well he’s doing. All kids do better when they’re told how well they’re doing. Every little improvement that is acknowledged just makes kids want to try harder and work harder to achieve the next milestone.
You know what is so amazing? Ryan usually stays an extra 15-30 minutes after his lesson just so he can jump in multiple times and play in the water. This was a boy who five months ago didn’t want to have anything to do with the water and now he asks Jackie at the end if his lessons if he can stay longer.

Jackie knew Ryan could be a swimmer from the first day. Why? Because she’s not his parent. As his parents my husband and I were sad for him because he was scared of the water. We only saw the fear and the anger. Not Jackie. She knows every child can learn to swim and she understands the fear kids can feel and she understands their hesitation. She doesn’t let that stop her from taking them into the water and gently and slowly getting them accustomed to just the feel of the water. She lets them realize that the water is nice and that it won’t hurt them if they relax and just float. It’s a huge first step when a child realizes that the water isn’t going to swallow them up. Not every instructor handles this part of teaching someone, especially a child who’s had a traumatic experience, the right way. They want to rush the kid to the next step in swimming. Jackie told us that just getting Ryan to feel safe and comfortable was going to bring about big changes in his attitude about the water and she was right.

If you’re considering swim lessons for your child or even for yourself, don’t bother looking anywhere else. If you’re reading this, then you’ve already found the instructor that will get your child swimming, and more importantly, loving and feeling safe in the water. Seriously, call her right now and set a date for a swim lesson and you too will be calling her your “Miracle Worker.”

Elaine Rogers :: Mother of Ryan Rogers (2024 Olympic Gold Medal Winner in Swim ;-)