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Water Safety

This guest blog post was written by Heather Hagstrom, Aquatics Supervisor at the Schaumburg Park District.

Cannonball!

Ahh, the pool! We are all familiar with the atmosphere of a swimming pool on a hot, sunny summer day.Water Safety  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!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist
Heather biopicHeather Hagstrom is the Aquatics Supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District. After starting out as a lifeguard at Magic Waters (Rockford, IL) when she was 16 years old, Heather decided that aquatics was the career path she would take. She worked a variety of part time supervisory positions in aquatics at the Rockford Park District and then was hired as the supervisor at Schaumburg in April of 2014. Heather is a new mom to Mia, 6 months, and is enjoying passing on her love for the water and passion for aquatics with the little one who also is already a fish in her own right. Heather continues to raise the bar in her department as far as quality of aquatic programming and the highest level of safety for all her participants as well as water safety awareness programs for the community.

To learn about helping children with sensory issues at the pool, watch our Facebook Live recording:

The Importance of Swimming Skills

Swimming was always one of my favorite activities as a child, which is why so many of my childhood memories from mysummer swimming chicago summers off of school take place at the neighborhood pool or at one of Chicago’s beautiful beaches. Aside from the fact that spending a day at the pool is a fun way to pass the hot days of summer, swimming has many other benefits for your child’s development. Below is a list of the top reasons why learning to swim is so important for your child.

Reasons Swimming Skills are Critical for your Child:

  • Strengthening: Negotiating the water requires your child to use all of her muscles. From her core to her arms and legs, your kid will become stronger while playing against the resistance provided by the water.
  • Coordination: Swimming requires a lot of coordination! While each swimming stroke is different, they all require simultaneous movement from your child’s arms and legs in different directions. As your child learns how to swim using a variety of swimming strokes, she is learning how to coordinate multiple movements from multiple body parts at the same time.
  • Sensory input: Swimming is a great way to get a lot of sensory input. The water itself provides deep pressure input to the whole body. The constant sensation of the water can help to decrease tactile sensitivity that your child may experience out of the water. The water also provides proprioceptive input to the body, which can help your child’s body awareness and the body’s position in space. Lastly, the changing position of your child’s head that is required with swimming provides vestibular input, which will help your child strengthen that sensory input both in and out of the water.
  • Safety: Being able to negotiate the water safely is an extremely important skill for your child to learn. While you can never predict what situation your child may encounter in the water, being able to swim, as well as being able to tread water, is the best way for your child to be prepared in challenging and potentially unsafe  water situations. However, it should be emphasized that no matter how strong of a swimmer your child is, all swimming and play activities around the water should be supervised by an adult.

Happy swimming this summer!

Encourage Your Child to Try Different Swimming Techniques

Though the Chicago winter months bring cold, snow and gloomy days, swimming continues to be a great activity for the family, albeit girl in poolindoors. Swimming offers many benefits for children, including enhancing sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination. A common concern among families with whom I work with is that their child does not like dipping their face in the water, which impacts the child’s swimming experience.

These strategies aim to assist parents that are working with their child to feel comfortable with dipping their face in the water during bath time, as practice for the swimming pool:

  1. Play “Simon Says” by indicating different body parts that should dip into the water. For example, “Simon says put your nose in the water” or “Simon says put your ear in the water.”
  2. Blow bubbles in the water using a straw. When your child feels comfortable with this, remove the straw and have them blow bubbles with their lips touching the water.
  3. Soak a washcloth in water and have your child wring it out over various parts of their body (hand, ear, mouth, etc). Allow your child to wring out the washcloth over your body as well.

Try playing these bath time games for several weeks and slowly introduce placing their whole face into the water. These activities will help your child feel more comfortable with putting their face in the water, one body part at a time.

 

Heavy Work Strategies for the Busy Family

Young Boy Holding a Pile of LaundryLife can get heavy from time to time and everyone gets stressed out. Unknowingly, many adults cope with said ‘stressors’ by incorporating various self-regulating strategies into their daily routines. They may take a deep breath or find their ‘zen’ in a yoga class. Some may take pleasure in the simplicity of sipping a warm cup of tea, while other more physical individuals resort to running a mile or two. Yet others prefer to lounge under a tree to read an enchanting romance novel. Children, like adults, need to have the ability to calm their bodies and self-regulate. One way for children to gather themselves in times of stress is by incorporating “heavy work” into their daily routine. ‘Heavy work’ activities provide deep proprioceptive input into a child’s muscles and joints, and thereby help them self-regulate in the same way that exercise may help an adult deal with stress.

Here are some examples of preparatory methods that can be incorporated into everyday life and used before a child encounters a stressful situation such as a loud birthday party, busy school day, or long car ride.

Heavy Work Activities To Provide Deep Proprioceptive Input For Children:

  • Help Mom: The completion of many chores can help incorporate ‘heavy work’ into a child’s daily routine. Examples include: carrying laundry, stirring recipes, pushing a grocery cart, or carrying shopping bags from the car.
  • Relay races and other forms of exercise are wonderful ways to build endurance and self-regulate. Examples include: wheelbarrow walks, froggy jumps, bear crawls, army crawls, crab walks, skipping, galloping, yoga, swimming, and gymnastics.
  • Play Outside: Take a walk and pull a wagon full of goodies, push a friend or sibling on the swing at the playground, build a
    sandcastle at the beach, or help around the house with yard work.
  • Rearranging Furniture: Pushing heavy chairs and couches provides deep proprioceptive input to the major joints and muscle groups of the body. You could put a fun spin on the activity and make a fort using furniture and blankets right in your living room!

‘Heavy work’ strategies can be incorporated into everyday life no matter the context or season. The use of these strategies may assist your child with more independence and self-soothing when they are feeling upset. This will also allow them to strengthen their muscles, increase their endurance, and may just help you cut back on the time spent completing housework chores. For other self-regulating ideas, please contact a NSPT occupational therapist.

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6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help Your Child

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:

1. 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.

2. Increased strength:

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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Aquatic therapy can be a great way to help your child reach their full potential. Not only can it help with gross motor skills, but can also help with speech and social interaction. So, if your child is motivated by the water, encourage them to jump on in!

Have aquatic games you would like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Swim Your Way To A Stronger Body

Summer is quickly approaching, and swimming pools can be used for much more than tanning and floating! Get those muscles and joints working with these simple games that you can play with common pool toys.

The following activities target strength, endurance, body awareness, trunk control, breath control and motor planning. As always, make sure safety is your first priority:

1. Noodle Races: sit on foam noodles, using your arms to pull yourself across the length of the pool .

**Try a variety of movements with your arms such as front crawls, breast strokes, and doggy paddling to incorporate different reaching and pulling methods. You can also sit on a tube or raft rather than a noodle to play this game!

2. Noodle Volleyball/Basketball: sit on foam noodles, passing a beach ball back and forth or aiming for a hoop.

**Try to keep the ball in the air without hitting the water for as long as possible. This is a great challenge that incorporates hand-eye coordination. Read more