Teaching kids with special needs to swim is not only a good
idea, itâ€™s essential. Swimming
lessons help kids with special needs
in a number of key areas, including greater muscle strength and physical
endurance, increased flexibility, more self-control, and, in many instances,
improved behavioral outcomes.
Creating an effective swimming program for kids with
special needs takes a patient understanding of each swimming student as well as
a well-thought-out plan for how the lessons can be adapted to each child. Here are some tips on teaching swimming
lessons to kids with special needs:
- Give each
child individualized attention -- Because swimming with be a new experience
for most of these children, they may be hesitant or reluctant to â€śtake the
plungeâ€ť at first. Be patient, and work
with kids at their own speed to get them adapted to being in the water and moving
in the water. Additionally,
children with epilepsy with need â€śspottersâ€ť at all times.
appropriate adaptive equipment -- Some students may benefit from adaptive
equipment that makes the water experience more positive for them. Life jackets other flotation devices
like floating mats may sometimes be used to help children with motor disorders
enjoy swimming safely. For
children with tubes in the ears, specialized swim plugs or caps will need to be
used to prevent the water from doing damage.
distractions -- Special needs children often do better in areas of the pool
with no distractions. Try to limit
harsh lighting or background noises.
consistent -- Since many special needs kids thrive with specific,
predictable routines, it is essential that instructors be consistent in their
teaching times and methods. Any
necessary deviations from normal schedules should be planned in advance.
- Adapt to
the needs of each child -- Some children may benefit from visual cues (for instance,
with flash cards or diagrams) as opposed to verbal instructions. Other children may learn better with
physical demonstrations. It is
important to adapt the lessons to match the ways in which each child learns
basic water skills -- Before attempting to teach swimming via traditional
strokes, itâ€™s important to make sure that each child masters basic water skills
like breathing, maneuvering underwater, and flotation. These skills will not come naturally for
many children, which is why a patient, consistent teaching method is best.
- Make it
fun -- Getting into the water for the first time can be a scary experience
for many special needs children. Try
to reduce water anxiety by making their experience fun and giving them plenty
of praise and encouragement.
- Plan for
safety -- Make sure that safety is a top priority in your swimming program.
Safety measures include having a
small class sizes, clean water, good leadership, qualified swim instructors,
and a documented emergency plan.
Swimming is an important skill that can save the lives of
special needs children. Parents
and educators can work with swimming instructors to create adapted swimming
programs that fit the need of each child individually.
Photos by bobrpics and Ctd 2005