Last Saturday me and my sister went to the Tikibad, which is a great swimming pool, with lots of things to do. Now, what is so special about me going for a swim? This wasn’t just any day at the swimming pool. It was an Auti-Do-Day (Translated from Dutch: Auti-Doe-Dag).
An Auti-Do-Day is a day where things like museums, amusement parks, swimming pools, etc. are open only to people with Autism and their relatives and everything is being adapted to make it more accessible for someone with Autism. The Auti-Do-Day is always somewhere else, and this time, much to my excitement, it was at the Tikibad! I always wanted to go there and this was the perfect time to go!
So, what was different at the Tikibad from usual? What did they do to make it more accessible? They divided the day in 2 blocks of 3 hours and you could choose in which time block you wanted to swim. This made sure there were plenty people who could swim on that day, while putting a cap on the amount of people that could buy a ticket. By doing this, it wasn’t too crowded at the swimming pool.
They also had less mood lighting and music on. Besides all of that, they also instructed the personnel at the swimming pool on Autism and had volunteers of the NVA (Nederlandse Vereniging Autisme = Dutch Foundation Autism) walking around. At the entrance of the swimming pool there was a small table with information on Autism and the NVA.
Still, interestingly enough those things weren’t the things that I noticed the most. They certainly helped, though. I wish every swimming pool was like that! But the thing that I noticed the most was the people who were also there. The people with Autism, but also the people who are used to living with people with Autism. The way everyone understood each other without having to explain every little thing and the respect with which everyone treated each other.
Usually when I go to a swimming pool, the thing that bothers me the most are the trouble-making youngsters. Like, when you get into a water slide and someone decides to jump in right after you, instead of waiting for the green light, just to see your startled face.
Or when people can’t wait their turn and cut in line. Or people who just knowingly push you aside in the swimming pool, not caring about you at all, as long as they get to where they have to be.
Things like that can really ruin a day at the swimming pool for me. Socialising, processing all the sensory input and using that much energy is hard enough as it is, without other people who seem to make it their goal to annoy others as much as they can.
Nothing like this happened at the Auti-Do-Day. I’m not saying everything went perfectly. In fact, a lot of things went wrong. But everything that went wrong, was simply a mistake (like me finding out, while changing back into my clothes, that I lost my pants, just to get them back from a nice lady who checked at the lost and found… The shame…). But nobody was cutting in front of the line. Everyone at the water slides politely waited for the green light. Nobody knowingly pushed each other aside. Bumping into each other happens sometimes by accident of course, but this was always met by a “sorry” or someone making some ashamed gesture (not everyone dared to speak to each other, but you could see they were trying to say sorry).
One time I got some chlorine in my eyes (argh!) and went to a sink to wash it out. This nice lady checked why I was taking so long at the sink, because she wanted to use it too, and saw me washing out my eyes. Instead of getting impatient she simply asked my sister “Ah, chlorine in her eyes?” My sister answered: “Yes.” And the nice lady nodded in understanding and patiently waited until I was done.
Everyone was so polite and understanding!
At the end of the day I got a nice hat as a souvenir (and my pants back, haha!) and I was on my way home.
Of course I was still very tired. My Chronic Fatigue doesn’t just go away by making a few adjustments. I wasn’t as tired as I usually am after going to the swimming pool though. My sister though that I’d fall asleep in the car, as I usually do after swimming, but I didn’t! I had a blast, all the adjustments at the swimming pool DID help and the people there were simply amazing, both the volunteers and the visitors!
Thank you NVA for a day I won’t soon forget!