Did you know that structured pool time can improve your child’s body awareness, strength, coordination, endurance, and flexibility? Aquatic therapy is beneficial for a variety of diagnoses, including but not limited to autism, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, Down syndrome, spina bifida, and various injuries.
How does aquatic therapy work?
The gravity-lessened environment of water enables children to practice movements and skills they may normally have difficulty performing by alleviating tension, reducing pain in joints and encouraging a wider range of movement. The warmth of the water improves passive range of motion by warming muscle tissue for easier stretching. The water’s buoyancy also allows children with decreased endurance to enjoy activities in the water that would be tougher on their heart and lungs on land.
Resistance to movement strengthens major muscle groups and calms children who are sensory seeking, hyperactive or have trouble focusing. Making waves, splashing and kicking water provides multi-sensory feedback allowing children to have fun while partaking in therapy. And when children hear echoes of sounds they are producing, they tend to make more noises, which strengthens oral-motor musculature.
What happens during an aquatic therapy session?
Therapy begins before children even get the chance to dip a toe in the pool. Dressing, grooming, and hygiene strategies are implemented, as they are necessary steps to take before entering the water. Having the pool as a reward helps motivate children to practice these daily self-care activities.
Before entering the water, children warm up with various stretches. In-pool exercises include shallow walking or running, deep walking or running, kicking while holding on the side of the pool, swimming and water-based yoga. Children use flotation devices such as life jackets, body boards, pool noodles or safe belts while the length and frequency of each exercise gradually increases with the improvement of the children’s strength, flexibility, coordination, and stamina.