Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Special Needs Children

Aquatic therapy has been shown to help a variety of special needs children.

Did you know a swimming pool is a great place to soothe a child with sensory issues? Often related to Autism, Asperger’s Syndrom, and other “spectrum disorders”, sensory issues cause a child to over or under react to stimuli in his immediate environment. While swimming, the warm water of a heated, indoor swimming pool surrounds the child with safety and support, making him feel comfortable. Because children with spectrum disorders often have issues communicating verbally, swimming lessons can be a great way to socialize them. Unlike other sports, swimming is a individual activity that relies heavily on visual cues and tangible rewards. With one-on-one instruction and quick progress, it can be the perfect program for a child with special abilities.

This short video from a Texas Swim Academy parent who has a special needs child show the amazing impact that one-on-one swim therapy can have in just a short amount of time.

Christine Duncan and her husband enrolled their daughter, Madison, in swim lessons at Texas Swim Academy and soon came to learn about her undiagnosed sensory integration disorder. As a result of her disorder, Madison has difficulties with motor skills and long-term planning, both of which are an important part of traditional swim lessons. Faced with these challenges, the instructors at Texas Swim Academy have responded with the utmost patience and compassion. Since her diagnosis, Madison has become increasingly more confident and open to trying new things, both in the water and in her daily life.

To hear Christine’s favorite part of her experience at Texas Swim Academy, tune-in to the short video below:

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

Parent Water Anxiety Shown to Have Effects on Children

Help you child become comfortable in the water by overcoming your own water anxiety!

As a mother of four, I know how important it is for parents to feel comfortable with their children swimming in a pool, lake, or even a bathtub. Water safety should be a priority and individual responsibility for each member of the family throughout the year. You can help your children to be safe in the water by showing your own respect for the water and confidence while swimming. Since many children imitate the behavior of parents and older siblings, make pool time a family affair to encourage safe swimming.

Not comfortable in and around the water? Texas Swim Academy offers a few tips for overcoming adult water anxiety and enjoying regular parent-child swim time:

Surveys suggest that nearly two out of three adults are uncomfortable being in water over their head – if that describes your feelings in the pool, you may be passing on your fears of water to your child. This is a good time to remind parents that a positive attitude is crucial to teaching children swimming skills and water safety.

If you struggle with anxiety in the water here are some steps to increase your comfort and hopefully pass that on to your children:

Familiarize yourself with having your face in the water. This is one we teach to all early swimmers and it builds confidence in adults as well. Stand in the pool, place your hands Parent-Child Swim Benefits | Adult Water Anxietyon the side, and practice taking a breath and putting your face in the water. Goggles may help your confidence, use them if you need to.

Practice submerging yourself. Begin by holding the side of the pool and dunking yourself for a few seconds. Extend your time underwater; work your way up to letting go of the wall and settling on the bottom for a few seconds.

Spend more time underwater. Now that you are comfortable on the bottom, stay down a little longer and look around at the other swimmers. Take your time. Toddlers in our classes, some as young as eighteen-months, will often submerge themselves and look around curiously at what is going on around them. Keep practicing to increase your comfort and the time you can spend underwater.

One more tip: Swim with a friend if you can, even if they just sit poolside and watch.

Remember, successful swimming is not about propulsion: it’s about breath control, balance, and buoyancy. Comfort in the pool is important, as relaxed swimmers make better decisions underwater and are ultimately safer. These are among the most important lessons that can be passed along to your child.

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

Modern Research Supports Common Benefits of Infant Aquatics

New research continues to support age-old findings regarding the benefits of early-child swim programs.

This may be old news to parents of toddlers in swim classes: research data supports swimming as beneficial to infants and very young children, specifically in developing balance, fine motor skills, and movement capabilities.

This study comes to us from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Lancaster University. Comparing two groups of 19 babies each – identical except that one group was enrolled in swim classes and the other was not – the study noted the swim group performed markedly better at tasks involving balance and movement, including walking on tiptoes, balancing on one foot, jumping rope, catching a beanbag, and more. Children were tracked from early infancy through to five years of age.

Benefits of Infant Aquatics | Infant Aquatics Expert | Kathleen McMordieFor the 19 swimmers, activities began with those typical of many swim and water therapy classes: back-floating, diving underwater, jumping onto a floating mat, jumping from the pool edge, etc. At age 5, swimmers and non-swimmers were run through an identical battery of tests to gauge performance: the group of swimmers performed almost uniformly better and demonstrated advanced development of motor and balance skills.

Beyond developing physical skills, the study credits swim classes with introducing to children skills they will take with them into pre-school and school, including listening and learning techniques.

We have abundant anecdotal evidence that babies enrolled in swim classes get a developmental leg up versus non-swimmers, however this is one of the first studies to support observations with hard data. With another recent study that links early swimming with improved cognitive development, there is more reason than ever to advocate for swim classes beginning in infancy.

Just be careful not to tell the kids that swimming is good for them… that is the only way they could find a reason not to enjoy it!

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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Swimming Study Shows That Aquatics Programs Create Smarter Children

In addition to the health and wellness benefits, early-age swimming lessons have proven to show a marked effect on intelligence. 

Child development professionals, swim advocates, and parents take note: a team of scientists and researchers from the Griffith University Institute for Educational Research have discovered a link between getting into the pool at an early age and accelerated development of cognitive skills in children. The study applied two study phases over a three-year period to a group of nearly 200 children age 3-5 in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The  preliminary interview phase Benefits of Swim Lessons | Kathleen McMordieincluded parents and was used to create a context to measure development differential between children who participated in swim activities while young with those who didn’t. The second phase involved direct testing of the children, to precisely measure cognitive development and capabilities without potential of parental bias.The study notes that to date this is, “the world’s most comprehensive study on kids and swimming.”

For the children who were involved in swim activities at a younger age, here is the takeaway from the Griffith Institute Early Years Swimming study:

  • Visual motor skills – drawing lines, making shapes, cutting paper, etc. – were markedly improved.
  • Oral expression, literacy, and numeracy were conducted with better skill and confidence.
  • Cognitive and linguistic skills in general demonstrated significantly greater development.
  • Enhanced skills are those typically deemed most necessary for success in a pre-school or school learning environment.

Results held consistent across gender and socio-economic lines, revealing a broad-based capacity for early swimming to positively affect cognitive development in children. This study is one of the first to offer verified research data in support of early swimming for children; add to that the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of early swimming therapy for kids, including development of socialization skills and accelerated physical development, and you have a powerful argument for getting children into the water as early as possible.
And of course it doesn’t hurt that swimming is fun for kids, too!

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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