Sensory At The Pool dove in to the world of a child’s sensory integration at a pool. Watch as one of our expert Occupational Therapists covered red flags, provided examples of what a child may experience (ex. walking across the cold, wet tile of a locker room floor) and shared some tips and tricks to helping your kiddo cope and make the best of summer!
This guest blog post was written by Heather Hagstrom, Aquatics Supervisor at the Schaumburg Park District.
Ahh, the pool! We are all familiar with the atmosphere of a swimming pool on a hot, sunny summer day. The sound of the water flowing over the grates, children laughing and squealing, the smell of chlorine and sunscreen, and then…a sharp whistle blast and it seems like the whole world stops for those brief seconds that we all stop and stare at a lifeguard jumping in the pool to rescue a struggling child. You frantically look to make sure it isn’t your child that is being pulled out of the water, and you notice that your child is right next to you and in perfect health and blissfully unaware of the hazards involved in this seemingly relaxing day at the pool.
As a parent, we are, unfortunately, hyper aware of the dangers associated with swimming. Between the years of 2005-2014, the CDC (Center for Disease Contol) estimates that nearly 3,500 individuals died from unintentional drowning. That breaks down to about 10 deaths from drowning PER DAY! Additionally, accidental drowning has been ranked as the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-5. These statistics are daunting and we may ask ourselves why do we even risk it? The answer is simple, IT’S FUN!
Besides being one of the only outdoor activities that can be safely performed on a hot summer day, it has also been researched and proven that water therapy can be very beneficial when working with a child that has special needs including autism, sensory disorders and down syndrome. The pressure of the water provides consistent deep pressure to the largest organ in the body-the skin. This phenomenon provides information to the central nervous system to describe where the individual is in space. Water is also known to help reduce the amount of weight the individual’s body frame is supporting, thus reducing any pain or pressure on the muscles or bones that may be due to their condition, i.e. tense extremities, bad posture, etc.
The intention of this article was not to scare anyone away from a lifetime of fun and effective therapies utilizing one of our greatest resources. However, there are concerns as far as safety goes that should be addressed.
Here is a list of best water safety practices that are effective in keeping your family safe:
- Teach your children to NEVER enter the water without you
- Enforce no running or horseplay policies
- Encourage children to listen to lifeguards if they are present
- Encourage children to take breaks every 2-3 hours to prevent exhaustion
- If children are weak swimmers, utilize coast guard approved lifejackets
- The lifejackets will state on the label that they are coast guard approved
- Inflatable water wings are NOT coast guard approved as they are not proven to keep an individual’s head above the water
- Always stay within an arm’s reach of your child while they are swimming
- Avoid distractions like cell phones and IPADs when supervising your children near a pool
- Swim lessons save lives! Enroll your child in a swim lesson class as soon as possible
- Most swim lesson organizations provide resources if your child has special needs and requires an aide to help them in a class setting
- Most will require you to request one, so please ask when registering!
- Even if you’re an adult and a good swimmer—never swim alone
- Never let your guard down-always stay vigilant
I supervise a staff of 150 lifeguards and I always tell them to never allow themselves to become complacent. In the blink of an eye- a life can be lost and there is no substitute for supervision when it comes to aquatic safety.
I hope you all have a safe and fun summer and last one in the pool is a rotten egg!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood,Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!
To learn about helping children with sensory issues at the pool, watch our Facebook Live recording:
Swimming is a great sport and pastime, particularly for children with sensory processing difficulties, as the water provides a multi-sensory experience for the body. Swimming also addresses a variety of skills, ultimately improving your child’s sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination.
Proprioceptive/tactile processing: The feel of water on the body gives proprioceptive input, the input to the muscle and the joints, and gives a sense of where the body is in relation to other body parts. The constant sense of the water against the skin provides deep proprioceptive input and helps with developing body awareness.
Vestibular processing: Somersaults under water or headstands at the bottom of the pool provide vestibular input, as the body is responding to the changes in head position and assisting with balance to complete these tasks.
Auditory processing: The pool environment typically provides a loud and vibrant auditory experience, as children’s laughter and happy shrieks are heard while they play in the pool.
Strength: Moving the body against water when swimming is a workout for the muscles! The water provides natural resistance for muscles, which in the long run, builds up overall body strength.
Endurance: Not only does the resistance of the water against the body make the body stronger, it also assists with endurance. As the muscles become stronger, they will be able to endure swimming and other activities for longer periods of time.
Coordination: Swimming strokes are very complex. The brain must take in all of the sensory information from the environment and act quickly to move the arms, legs, torso and head in a coordinated fashion to produce the movement.
So many children find swimming exciting and fun, and love spending summer days at the pool. Parents can also appreciate spending time at the pool knowing that this activity is not only fun, but also good for their child!