“I’m sorry, I have to go.”
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
I needed to pick up my son, Gòn, and I was supposed to leave five minutes ago. I came into the office late that morning because Gòn had speech therapy before his ABA program. I work in corporate finance. Meetings typically run long and involve upper management. Luckily, my colleagues understand that accommodating my son’s schedule is a priority for me.
Despite rush hour traffic, I managed to get to the pool by 5:20 p.m. If the staff took a break at 6:00 p.m. to change shifts, we would have about 30 minutes of uninterrupted pool time. Anything less than 30 minutes of swimming would result in a meltdown for Gòn. I pray for no breaks. Once Gòn gets in the pool, he doesn’t want to get out. He grins the whole time we’re in the water. So do I. The pool is one of the few places where he can comfortably interact with me.
This has been our routine for the past two years. Every day. Rain or shine. Gòn was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism when he turned 2 years old. Learning a new skill takes months of practice. Daily tasks don’t make much sense. Functional play and social interaction are hard work.
But moving in the water clicks for him. He teaches himself how to maneuver around the pool. Floating on his back seems effortless. I look forward to our time at the pool because it’s the only time in the day that Gòn enjoys himself — without having to work for it. Lack of motivation has been the biggest challenge to getting him engaged in therapy. However, with activities like swimming, the motivation is there for him. Learning becomes natural and fun.
I’m thankful for ABA therapy. It teaches kids like Gòn essential skills to function properly — giving them a chance to lead independent lives later on. Yet I struggle with dropping him off at a clinic where he has his own treatment room, but no access to an outdoor playground. Full time one-on-one therapy is truly hard work. Gòn is still a toddler. He loves to climb, jump, and run. On a cool day, he’ll lie on the grass and enjoy the breeze while looking up at the sky.
Gòn is the reason for One of the Kids, a place where kids on the spectrum receive therapy to reach their full potential while having fun through meaningful activities like swimming, music, dance, and martial arts. Our campus was designed with their needs in mind. They’re encouraged to explore the natural environment at their own pace with dedicated support to develop their unique identities.
An Pham is an investment banking, corporate finance professional and the founder of One of the Kids in Austin, Texas. For the past two years, she has made it her life focus to find independence and happiness for her son with autism. One of the Kids was created from An's passion to create a better approach to autism therapy.
Learn more about One of the Kids.