Swimming for disabled and people with special needs
Introduction/ swimming for disabled
This page is about swimming for disabled. The basics for getting someone disabled swimming is recognizing the importance and joy it will give in a disabled persons life. Maybe if you are a care worker or parent who would like
to start taking part in swimming activities and not too sure where to start. I will be discussing
the impotence of disabled swimming either mental, physical or both. I will go into more detail
of simple activities you can try whilst at your local pool. Give some advice about
the aspects of teaching someone with any kind of disability as well as some medical conditions
that you could come across which are not always apparent at first glance. Invisible disabilities i.e. asthma, visual and hearing impairment.
Facilities/ swimming for disabled
The first important factor that must come to mind is the facilities the leisure center offers in relation to
access and changing rooms. How accessible are they? Opening times? You do not want to arrive
to find that the pool has closed.?
The next thought for you will be entry and exit of the pool. How to get in and out, does your pool offer you
Support? special wheelchairs to get in and out? if it has a beach area which begins at zero depth
which gets gradually deeper. Steps where the rail goes all the way down so a person with a disability can hold
on all the way into the water without letting go.
The water temperature is also important for the disabled swimmer if it is too cold muscles can go into spasm.
Also look at the showering facilities to ensure there is adequate provisions for the disabled and
their care workers/parents. Some centers offer special area for the disabled to shower.
Things to think about/ swimming for disabled
When learning to swim or taking part in water based activities it is important to set goals that are achievable and
realistic. There is nothing worse than setting your aims too high and not achieving them. This could put an end
to your swimming or put relate swimming to bad feelings.
Swimming for disabled as far as health and fitness is
concerned is just as important for an able bodied person as for a disabled person as well as the benefits of it.
When teaching people with disabilities it is important that you look at the persons abilities what they
can do with it rather than the negative disability and what a person cannot do. For this reason we need to
have an open mind and treat them with empathy not sympathy meaning put yourself in their position and
imagine what it is like to be in their situation. This way you can be more positive on the outcome of
a skill you are trying to set for a person with a disability to achieve.
A simple skill may be just simply getting in the water or floating on their back with help from
yourself and swimming aids as well as floats. What seems to you may be a simple task but to someone with any kind of
severe disability either physical or mental this could be a major achievement to them and could take several
weeks to achieve.
What is expected of you/swimming for disabled
You main objective is to promote independence and free movement in the water that can’t always be achieved
out of it. Making sure that the person who is in charge of the swimming session is relaxed and positive
attitude towards the person going in the water. I feel that it is important that the person who you are
taking in the water knows and trusts you. If that is not possible that the person does not know you
then always make sure that the same person takes the disabled swimming at least that way the person will
get to know and trust you over a period of time. As long as you appear calm and relaxed in the water
this will be reflected on the person who you are taking in the water.
If you have all of this then you are going to offer swimming for disabled a motivated and rewarding
session as well as yourself. You will feel good and confident about the session and be motivated
to want to encourage your disabled swimmer to do well.
When teaching or taking a disabled swimmer in the water you can expect then to make just as much as a effort
as a person without a disability. You may just have to adapt some of your activities to suit your
disabled swimmers needs. They may take longer to learn than average but as long as you can put the time
and most of all patience then who's keeping count.
I always recommend buoyancy aids for swimming for disabled to gain much needed water confidence they
can always be taken away little by little as time goes by.
click here to see my page about swimming equipment
Types of disability/ swimming for disabled
Invisible disability, this is a medical condition that sometimes could affect learning to swim
or maybe needs to be aware of for heath and safety reasons. For example.
Asthma/ swimming for disabled
This is caused by the narrowing of the airways resulting in breathlessness and wheezing.
Children and adults can suffer from this and it is good idea to find out what kind of medical
conditions a person has before you take them swimming so you know what precautions to take. In this
case of asthma a person would either have medication to take before going swimming to prevent
an attack and/or medication to control an attack when in progress.
A good prevention measure would be in these circumstances is to ensure that the person who is
swimming allows plenty of time for the heart rate and breathing to come back down to normal before
doing another activity.
If you vary the strokes and the activities when swimming using different muscle groups this
in turn makes for different respiratory demands. Encourage swimming on a frequent basis will
help a person suffering from asthma increase lung capacity.
Epilepsy/ swimming for disabled
Another type of invisible medical condition you could come across, this is never a problem when
swimming unless a person has an epileptic fit. They are caused by the electrical activity in
the brain and come in different forms.
One of the less noticeable forms is when a person
has absences for a few second. They may gaze into the air and not be conscious of their
surroundings at this time. It is not a fit as such as sometimes is not noticed to
begin with children and seen as day dreaming. This form of epilepsy can also be grown
out of in later life. This is not always a danger but they may miss out on certain
instructions you are giving them and thinking that they are not listening.
The other type of epilepsy is when you do have fits and it depends on the area of the brain
the fit is taking place to how severe the fit is. Most people who are epileptic and
have fits are on medication and do make you aware of it or should. If some one
in your care in the water should have a fit you should firstly.
Don't panic this crates more panic and although the person who is having the fit
is not aware of their surroundings they can hear you subconsciously so you need to talk
calmly saying their name letting them know that they will be alright.
Keep the head supported above the water and do not put your fingers or anything else
between their teeth. They may lock their jaws on your finger or object and could choke.
Just let the fit run it's course at this stage there is nothing you can do. Do not
try to restrain them or prevent the person from moving they are very strong when in this
Within a few minutes the fit will be over if you know this person and you know they
are not epileptic then call for an ambulance or if you know this person and they are
having a fit much longer than they should it is wise to also call for an ambulance.
If they are having several fits one after the other and this is also not like
them the ring for an ambulance but otherwise you do not need to.
Once they have got over the fit get them out of the water and do not let them back
in again in case it happens again to be on the safe side. Stay with them and arrange
for them to be taken home or take them home yourself giving full report on the events
in case they need to be recorded.
Heart conditions/ swimming for disabled
The main rule here is not to over tire. Swimming one of the best
forms of exercise for someone with heart condition because you use resentence
against the water. The water supports you stopping you from making quick and
sudden movements. Even if you cannot swim at the moment you can stimulate
running across the pool moving your arms up and down as you run. Good exercise
but not as demanding as if you were out of the water.
Diabetes/ swimming for disabled
This is as common as epilepsy and is controlled with drugs. All you need to do is
make sure that you have a correct balance of carbohydrate before you start swimming
and burning up your supplies to avoid coma.
Visual impairment/ swimming for disabled
Keep close to the person you are teaching use a lot of verbal communication. Make
sure that the person you are with understands what you are trying to say. If your disabled swimmer
can see a little the try using luminous floats bright yellow and green. Make your disabled swimmer
feel reassured and confident with you in the water.
Hearing impairment/ swimming for disabled
always stay close to the person you are with and use deliberate movements
of the mouth. Do not shout. You could learn some sighs and body language to promote better communication
skill with the person you are trying to teach. Break the session into smaller parts.
Physical disabilities/Cerebral Palsy
This is brain damage resulting in reduced muscle power and increased muscle tone which causes
stiff flexed limbs. Difficulty in breathing control and swallowing. There is involuntary, uncontrolled
and uncoordinated movements. There is a disturbance of balance and speech problems as well as possible
learning difficulties. Swimming would be a tremendous benefit to a person with this condition as long
as they were not pushed too far and were properly supervised it would help to relax muscles in the water and
if the person is normally in a wheel chair would make a life changing difference to their mental and
Spinal Bifida and spinal injuries resulting in paraplegia/ swimming for disabled
With the degree of paralysis always depends where
the injury to the spine is. The disabled swimmer will most or all motor and sensory loss below the
site of the injury. You must take care of paralyzed limbs so they do not get trapped on hard and abrasive
surfaces when you are lifting and handling them.
Learning disabilities/ swimming for disabled
Whatever the cause of a learning disability and there are a lot of reasons why
someone has a learning disability of if they are disabled without learning disability. Lets simply look at how we teach them to swim and ways in which we can
gain their interest through play and other forms of learning.
Teaching the disabled about water confedence/ swimming for disabled
When teaching swimming for disabled then first you need to think about buoyancy aids to keep your swimmer
afloat. This person may coming straight from a wheelchair into the pool. You may have to consider
if you need two people in the pool with your disabled swimmer likeminded like yourself in the
interest if making the most of the time given to give this person some enjoyment of the freedom
water bringing to this client group.
You must be aware though that there are advantages and disadvantages of swimming aids.
Arm bands can be restrictive in movement
Arm bands can give a person a false sense of balance and security which prevents swimmers from
learning stability. This can be avoided by regularly changing bouncy aid or deflating air from them
to give less bouncy.
Can be prone to wear, tear, leaking or damage so check regularly.
The advantages if feel outweigh the disadvantages.
Safety is first of all they are life saving and prevent accidents in the pool. Disabled swimmers have the opportunity
to move freely and independent this is good help when you are in change of a group of disabled swimmer
going to a local pool.
The balance disadvantage is only applicable when the disabled swimmer is clearly capable of learning
to swim in the long term so if the arm band is giving security and balance to a person who is not
going to achieve this then it is a good thing. If a disabled person is not wearing the arm bands for
too longer time in one go, if they are capable of learning to support themselves this would be a good idea
I would first consider a woggle with armbands and maybe a swim belt if the person you are taking swimming
is a non-swimmer.
Begin by getting the woggle behind his/her back and swim belt around the waist as well as arm bands. You may
find that you do not need all of this you may just need a woggle and arm bands. It is bet to experiment
to see what suits the individual.
You could then try getting your disabled swimmer to try kicking their legs up and down to make lots of splashes
then go on to splashing the water with their arms then arms and legs together. Try to associate swimming with
fun. Using songs and games I find works well, as song that requires action like, Head, Shoulders, Knees
and Toes the Hokey, Cokey. A fun game to play is Simple Simon says splash your legs, Simple Simon says
blow bubbles in the water and so on.
Moving to music especially when a person is visually impaired using coordination to the rhythm and beat.
Using a hoop your disabled swimmer can try putting different parts of their body through the hoop
on command like a game. Try throwing a ball into a hoop or any other object.
If your disabled swimmer is a little more advanced than these practices and you believe that they
are a little easy then you could develop some other practices from my pages about toddlers or swimming
games or any other advaced swimming techniques on other pages. It all depends on the level you feel your disabled swimmer is at.
swimming for disabled/ click here to look at my page about toddlers and simple swimming practices, it will also show you how to use the mentioned floats and swimming aids for the above practices
swimming for disabled /click here to find facilities and information about where you can find local leisure centers and more involving the disabled
I wish you the very best of luck and if you have read this page then you have made the first steps to introducing the disabled to the water.
Thanks for reading
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Do you have a local or national swimming club that you would like to spread the word about?
Please feel welcome to advertise on my page about disabled swimming. The more people who get to know about your club or organization the better. Don't forget to include contact details e-mail etc.
I only insist that the organizations who advertise on my page are only concerned with the disabled, because this page is about disabled swimming.
Look here for local clubs and organizations for disabled swimming
Click below to see adverts for disabled swimming clubs and groups