Aquatic therapy is a fun way for children to reach their short and long-term therapy goals. It is a fun alternative to land therapy in order to meet their strength, balance, coordination, ROM, and endurance goals. Aquatic therapy can also be beneficial to children with sensory aversions by completing therapeutic exercises in a warm water pool. Warm water helps to relax the muscles for children with either high or low tone, enabling them to complete exercises that they may not be able to complete on land. Our 9×15 pool contains resistance jets leading to improved strength, balance, and reduced auditory stimuli. Our skilled therapists have completed continuing education courses to provide the most up-to-date, beneficial, and skilled aquatic therapy practices for patients of all ages.
The benefits of participating in aquatic therapy at Speakeasy Therapy will lead to improvements in:
- Sensory Processing
- Range of motion
When a child feels happy and confident in the water, it is time to increase the demand by adding a partner. This provides the opportunity to incorporate social interaction and interpersonal skill acquisition.
Children can copy each other, trade toys, offer ‘high fives’ to one another and work together while talking, pointing and using gestures for play.
Even better, when the pool activities are well established, a third child could be added. The result is a group of three children who are having fun while working on a variety of skills: vestibular, proprioception, social interaction, motor planning, core strengthening, re-patterning of reflexes, respiration, cognitive skills and much more.
Often, this small group provides a bridge to genuine leisure activity, a swim class in which they are integrating with their peers.
Let’s switch gears and talk about the opposite type of child. Your family wants to swim but no matter what you try, your little buddy is clinging for life around your neck, screaming, “Take me to where I can touch my feet.”
Gravity is gone and he is not staying in for long. Techniques for grounding and helping your child understand the absence of gravity will most likely get those fingernails out of your neck.
Sequenced systematic activities with weights or canvas shoes can therapeutically provide the feedback that avoids the fight or flight response. Parents and other people working in the water with this child need to accept that once a fight or flight response begins, neurochemistry kicks in. It is as if someone is following you and you feel like you are about to get robbed. You feel your body heating up, preparing to defend. This is the feeling your child is experiencing! No one can learn to swim, enjoy the water or participate in therapy in this mode.
How do we help him to learn where his body is in space? The properties of the water are just as powerful for this child, but require different ritual, routine, social stories and firm progression.
Some kids really want to be in the water but their system works against them. Giving the vestibular and proprioceptive systems the input they need to guide the progression, is key to their success.
Cadence, rhythm and timing of movement, is crucial to arousing the necessary centers for cooperation. Whether the avoiding response is severe or mild it is important to work with someone who understands what this adverse response is all about.
One child may need one OT or PT session with the appropriate progression; others may need several.
For example, a child recently attended a set of 6 private swim sessions at a private swim school. This nonverbal, 7-year-old, child with autism endured 2 sets of these sessions (12 times).
When the instruction did not work, the parents were told the swim instructor had done everything they knew how to do. This child is a perfect candidate for a different approach with a trained aquatic therapist who understands the properties of the water and how they affect a child with sensory processing dysfunction.
Another child may have attended years of swimming but has a specific issue, i.e., putting her face in the water. An experienced aquatic therapist can help her overcome this sensory aversion of water splashing on her face, alleviating her fear of submerging.
An ecclectic treatment approach encompassing many different frames of reference in the water will result in children who not only enjoy the water but are able to participate in a leisure/recreation activity with peers.
Brainstorming pool sessions regarding the incorporation of approaches such as reflex re-patterning, play project techniques, sensory integration and NDT result in individualized therapeutic responses to each child’s specificity.
Working as OT/PT teams, aquatic therapists examine movement, experiment with equipment and handling while sharing ideas and observations. This cooperative approach is crucial for the creation of the aquatic tool box and learned tricks of the trade that will help children enjoy the water.
The pool provides options for private, semi-private and small group therapy. Children can work parallel with noodles and dumbbells, retrieving objects while lying on their bellies, then sitting up and giving them to the therapist, or throwing them on the command of, “ready, set, go!” Eventually, this parallel play evolves into the kids trading objects. Small groups form when the goals change.
A parent may want strength, coordination, endurance and social skills as they relate to the swimming experience for their child. Together, a swim instructor and therapist can provide the specific combination of activities that will improve motor planning while motivating social skills.
Many parents describe the bridge that this provides from therapy to community as miraculous. They exclaim, “My son has limited language and now he is on the swim team!” Additionally, many parents rave about an amazing family vacation because their child swam every day, even engaged others in the pool.
More importantly, the child was at an optimal level of arousal, able to participate in family activities throughout the day, minus usual difficulties. Stories like theses will keep you marinating in the pool.
Aquatic therapy is a wonderful activity for children and adults of all ages. If your child likes the bath and is motivated by water, aquatic therapy is aqua therapygreat way to build their skills and confidence.
Below are 6 ways that aquatic therapy can help your child reach their full potential:
Gains in range of motion:
After an injury, such as a broken leg or an ankle sprain, joint movement is often limited by swelling or decreased strength to muscles. Aquatic therapy pools are generally set to a comfortable 80-90 degrees, which is warmer then a normal pool. Using the warm temperature of the water, joints will be able to be more flexible and stretch to new limits.
Once proper range of motion is achieved at a joint, proper strengthening is needed in order for the muscle to perform well at its new length. Using the principle of resistance, muscles are able to gain strength by performing simple actions in the water, such as lifting a leg to the side of the body.
Achievement of gross motor milestones:
Children have an easier time completing gross motor milestones, such as rolling, walking and jumping in the water secondary to buoyancy principles. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may learn to roll in the water with the assist of a therapist and the buoyancy of the water. Once the nervous and musculoskeletal system in the child’s body learn how to roll in the water, it will be easier to learn on a mat table in the clinic and then transfer to rolling in bed at home.
Increased tactile input:
For kids with sensory processing disorders, the water can provide the deep pressure input that they crave. This deep pressure and overall increased tactile input will help a child who has difficulty processing sensory input transfer into a more organized, calm child.
Helps with breath support:
For kids with speech issues, aquatic therapy can be very helpful. By using techniques such as holding their breath under water, deep breathing and by raising their arms up and bringing them down with the resistance of water can all help with proper breath support for speaking.
Better social interaction:
Completing gross motor activities can often help to decrease social anxiety. Often times, jumping into the water or swimming across the length of the pool can encourage speaking in children who have anxiety. Kids can also learn a swimming stroke from watching each other, share toys and participate in fun games together in the pool setting.