When I tell people enthusiastically that I spent a large part of my time doing adaptive dive programs, people automatically assume this is for people in wheelchairs or amputees. But in fact most of the time, even without knowing, we work with people with a totally different type of 'special' need. And this is how I met Murat
I answered the phone and the lady' voice on the other side of the line was abruptly broken off! A man voice came on asking me interrogation style about our beginners dive, the so called 'try dive'. He was meticulous in his questioning and wanted me to be the same in my answering. After what seemed to me like an awkward and uncomfortable telephone conversation, an appointment for a try dive with Mr Murat was booked.
Murat came in with his sister, she was quickly pushed to the background as Murat had taken center stage and couldn't be interrupted by her if she tried to. During the regular scuba equipment briefing I didn't immediately notice that Murat might just be a bit 'different' than the most of the beginner divers that come through our shack. My brain had quickly classed him as enthusiastic, slightly nervous and a typical Turkish male having to listen to a woman half his age telling him what to do 🙂
Murat: “what do you think of my watch? It's new, i bought it the day before yesterday. Do you really think we can dive with it?”
Me: “sure, that is a 1st class dive watch”
Murat: “oh great, because I'd like to send the manufacturer some photos afterwards”
Me:.... silence.... “ooooo-kaaaaaay”...”sure however you wish”.
I observe Murat from the window while the scuba gear is prepared, and then it becomes clear to me; Murat is not just any enthusiastic, slightly odd diver. Murat is somewhere on the autism spectrum and he's on a mission! This try dive is booked for only 1 reason ..... the new watch!
With this knowledge I now switch to 'adaptive dive mode' and have to come up with a dive plan that differs from our regular dive and make this experience as unforgettably awesome for both of us. As of now there is nothing routine anymore about this 3m depth try dive. I decide that we will do an underwater photo shoot, with the watch the star of the show. My goal now is having Murat relaxed and calm kneeling on the sand showing off his watch while I take pictures, rather than having him glide over house reef and spot fish.
Step by time, in extreme detail I explain to Murat what we are going to do, how we will do it and how long it will take. He seems satisfied and for the first time cracks a smile. Great! Let's do this!!
When the 'dive' is over I show more interest in his watch, and Murat happily tells me about the functions and how mine is actually not as good as his. He also lets me know that he is very happy with the pictures however there are a bit too many fish in them that distract the eye from his watch 🙂
In the end Murat had a great experience, and completed his own set task/goal. For me it was again a confrontation with the fact that many people with other needs fly under the radar for whatever reason. Luckily it was a quiet day and I had all the time in the world to pay a lot more attention to Murat, I had the time to observe calmly and bend the plan accordingly.
On the other side, if family members can inform us beforehand we are always prepared and in a far better position to avoid stress anxiety and a bad experience.
For people with physical, light mental, and behavioural differences dive programs from IAHD (international association of handicapped divers) are a great fit. What makes the IAHD organisation stand out from other organisations doing similar is that training programs are ISO certified and specify an assistant amount. But more importantly the instructors teaching them follow a specific training programing making them able to deal with a large array of conditions. IAHD instructors learn how to adapt what is there to the conditions and people at hand.
IAHD certifications are valid world wide and be sure to get in touch with an assistant for your dives or have an already diving friend certify as a IAHD buddy!