Getting back on the (water) horse

Last week, I wrote about perfectionism. One of the points I tried to make was the idea that risk-taking (i.e. trying and failing in the process of learning a new skill) can be very difficult for people who are on the autism spectrum. Any sort of failure, big or small, can be viewed as 100% negative—leading to a refusal to try, and/or a meltdown.

This has always been the case for Geordie; he masters new skills quickly (and often immediately because of his tendency not to try anything until he knows he can do it)—it just takes him a little longer to get around to it.

You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.

(Craig Bruce)

One thing we’ve learnt is the art of sitting back and chilling—he’ll get around to it when he’s ready. A couple of cases in point:

♦ riding a tricycle (refused to do it for nearly a year after we bought it, then got on one day and rode off)

♦ ‘writing’ (never engaged in ‘experimental writing’, and refused to hold a pencil and have a go at writing his name until the day he could do it legibly)

Once a skill is finally nailed, everything is rosy—until something happens when performing said skill, resulting in failure.

Getting back on the horse at this point can prove difficult—moreso if the failure also involves physical pain of some sort.

This happened twice to Geordie last January during our annual coast break.

Both of these ‘failures’ involved water.

The first—a spectacular face-first dumping off the inflatable boogie board by a particularly vicious wave.

The second was a little more traumatic—first go at stand up paddling (SUP) and doing really well despite nerves, only to get stuck and have to step off the SUP board right into a bed of oyster shells. Bare feet.

At first, I didn’t think ‘the dumping’ had phased him—he came up sputtering but smiling. Said he ‘needed a break’ and gave the board to me—then refused to use it again for the entire holiday.

The ‘oyster shell incident’ was a little more obvious. His feet were a mess. I wouldn’t have gone back on the board after that either. (In fact, to be honest, I never went on that board in the first place. There’s no way I’d be able to stay upright with my lack of balance. Interpret that as you will.)

Many weeks before our coast trip this year, I asked Geordie if he was going to go boogie boarding or SUPping. The answer was an emphatic ‘NO’.

I left it.

No point in pursuing or pushing or even gently encouraging as it only serves to cause a deeper digging in of heels.

For the first few days, Geordie was happy to play in the waves but refused all offers of a turn on the boogie board.

We said nothing. Didn’t push. Only offered once each time.

Then this happened:

Boogie Board

We didn’t make a fuss. (Have learned in the past if we draw attention to something we are super excited about, it often ceases to happen.)

A couple of days later, Ashlea and her father decided they wanted to hire SUP boards.

Casually, from behind my Kindle, I asked Geordie if he wanted to go too.

I nearly fell off my chair.


Because this happened:


I am happy to say I was totally wrong in my assumption he wouldn’t get back on the (water) horse(s) this year.

He did—and he nailed it both times!

Maybe it was because we didn’t push it.

Perhaps because he had his sister there right alongside him.

And likely owing to the fact he is growing—in maturity and resilience (and also physically!!)

Whatever the reason, it was worth the wait.

Life is always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act.

(Paulo Coelho)