Tag Archives: Aquatic Therapy

Help Your Little One Love to Swim!

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Summer months are just around the corner which means neighborhood pools and splash pads are opening.  Toddlers are so curious about the water but are often a bit scared to take the plunge and go in the pool.  Here are some fun and easy ways to get your child to learn to love the water. 

1)      Treasure Hunt: When children can sit up by themselves (about 6 months old), sit by them in the kiddie pool or a blow up pool in the backyard.  Place fun things at the bottom of the pool, such as plastic fish, rings or some of their favorite bath toys.  Pools with a zero-depth entry where you can walk in on a gradual decline are excellent for making a trail of toys into the water for your little one to follow. 

2)      Peek-A-Boo!: Once your little one is in the water, putting their face in can often be a scary thing. Playing Simon Says or Peek-A-Boo can be a fun way to break the ice.  Kids love to mimic their parents, so placing your face in the water covering your face, then lifting your face out of the water making a funny face at your child can be a hit.  Practicing blowing bubbles through a partially submerged straw is also fun for kiddos. 

3)      Getting comfortable on their back:  Floating on their backs is one of the first things that kids learn in swim lessons.   While you are supporting them under their mid back, asking kids to describe shapes of the clouds, sing songs and even looking for airplanes are ways to help children ease into this skill.  Practicing back float in the bathtub is also a good way to practice this life-saving skill.

12_Jack Pribaz.jpg_water
Photo Credit: Kristi Hughes

4)      Fun with Noodles: If your pool allows noodles, having your children straddle the noodle while supporting them at their waist can be not only fun for your kiddo but also a great way to strengthen their core and leg muscles.  Have your child hold onto the noodle with two hands in front of them and pretend that they are riding a horse or biking to their favorite toy store or ice cream shop. 

5)      Listen to Your Child:
If your child cries during swim lessons or has tantrums when you are trying to get them into the pool, do not force them to go in the water as this can make it worse.  They may need a few sessions of watching other kids from the deck on the side of the pool to realize that swimming is not a scary thing.  Make sure to pick a time where your child is not tired or hungry.   Let them pick out a swimsuit at the store and fun pool toys so they feel like they have some control over this new experience. 

Swimming is one of the only sports that people can enjoy for their entire life-span.   It can also be life-saving and build confidence in your little one.  So, make sure to be positive and motivating with your little one in the water and help them learn to love to swim.

Scott_Lauren.jpg_water
Photo Credit: Joann Hartley

 

To learn more about Aquatic Therapy and other
Community Based Therapy Programs at
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

Cover photo by Chris Pestel

 

Why Swimming is a Great Sport for Children and Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Photo by Joann Hartley
Photo by Joann Hartley

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to shed some light on providing physical fitness to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders.  According to the newest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 US children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  As an aquatic therapy instructor, I have seen tremendous improvements in physical fitness level, behavior and survival skills in children with autism in the aquatic environment.  Here are some reasons why children and adults with autism thrive in the aquatic setting.

  • Swimming is a life-saving skill. Because children with autism have an increased rate of wandering off, drowning in a near-by lake or pool is a concern.  Swimming incorporates techniques such as floating and treading water so a child would be able to get out of a potential life-threatening situation.
  • Water provides an excellent sensory experience. The resistive and buoyant properties of water make it a very calming environment for children with autism.  Undesired behaviors are often reduced in the aquatic setting and children are more grounded by the water.  Even children that have aversions to textures such as grass and sand will likely feel more at peace in the water.

    Photo by Julie Hermes
    Photo by Julie Hermes
  • Swimming is an excellent aerobic activity. Children with autism are at a higher risk for obesity.  According to a report published in the July-August issue of American Pediatrics, at least one in every three children and adolescents with autism is overweight or obese.  Getting children moving is key, and if they are in an environment they can enjoy, such as the pool, the easier it is to motivate them to get their bodies working.
  • Because many children with autism have difficulty with motor planning and coordination, swimming is a great way for children with autism to work on activities such as: reciprocating both sides of the body, timing of breathing, core and extremity strengthening. These skills transfer well to land-based activities such as throwing, catching and running.
  • Swimming is social! Often times, jumping in the water or swimming the length of the pool can help induce talking in children that are limited verbally.  Kids can also learn a lot from watching each other and can encourage them to try a new skill in the water.

If a more structured swim team would be too much for your child, look into aquatic therapy. The physical and occupational therapy teams at Easter Seals provide aquatic therapy for children with special needs twice a week at local pools.  Please call Easter Seals at 630-620-4433 for more information.

References:

Broder-Fingert S. et al. Acad. Pediatr. 14, 408-414 (2014) PubMed

American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.aap.org

 For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.