The water is cold! My swimsuit is too tight! It is too loud! The water hurts!
For many adults, summers spent lounging by the pool are some of the fondest memories. Swimming, whether it be at a pool, lake or ocean, and learning to swim, is considered a right of passage. The activity provides an array of learning experiences, including gross motor skills, balance, core strength, endurance, sensory processing opportunities and social interactions. However, with the many sensory demands that are involved in swimming, the task can become overwhelming for some children. Below is information regarding the many sensory systems that require integration within the brain while participating in a swim lesson.
Sensory Systems and Strategies for Swimming:
|Sensory System||How the Sensory System is Affected by Swimming||Suggestions to Promote Processing of this Sensation|
|Motor Planning||Motor planning is the groundwork for sensory integration. Swimming is an opportunity for your child to learn motor planning for symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, bilateral movements, crossing midline, learning to invert the head, and separation of upper body and lower body movements.||· Practice riding a bicycle· Practice reciprocal arm movements while lying prone on a scooter board.· Jumping Jacks
|Proprioception||The ability to sense your body in space and movement of the body and its parts. Proprioceptive difficulty for swimming can present with little motor control, difficulty in motor planning, difficulty in modulating the sense of pressure and postural instability.||· Water play in the bathtub.· Heavy work and deep pressure input to the legs, arms and torso: log rolls, burrito rolls, nig bear hugs|
|Vestibular||The vestibular system is controlled by the inner ear, mainly the movement of fluid within the three ear canals, and is the information gathering and feedback source for movements. All other sensations are processed in relationship to basic vestibular information. Swimming can be difficult in terms of vestibular processing due to head inversion, head turning and buoyancy.||· Somersaults· Swinging· Jumping
· Scooter board activities in different planes of movements: prone, supine, kneeling, criss-cross apple sauce,
· Log rolls
|Tactile||Water provides 600-700 times more resistance to the body than air. Movement through the water is a full body experience, thus providing tactile stimulation to every inch of the body. Water can also provide information regarding temperature. In addition, the act of swimming provides tactile input through the wearing of swimsuits, which can feel tight and restrictive in some cases.||· Water play with warm water and with cold water· Wearing tight clothing, similar to spandex or Under Armour· Wearing swim suits and swim trunks as play clothing to get accustomed to the fabric; wear during dry and wet activities
· Slip and slide activity
|Auditory||The amplitude of sounds underwater are affected by the pressure, which can cause a higher sensitivity to these amplitudes. This means, as sounds across air can be managed and integrated into your sensory system, the same sound under water can feel louder, causing discomfort in the ear drum.||· Try wearing ear plugs while under water· Play a sound game prior to swimming; place one ear in a small bucket of water and have one ear exposed to the air, listen to the same sound both above and below the water|
Swimming can be both challenging and fun, but know your child’s limits as well. Continued exposure in a controlled and safe environment can help to establish safe and error-free learning along with confidence!
For tips, tricks, and discount offers from our friends, visit our summer resource page:
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!