Aquatic Therapy For Children: The Sensory-Motor Benefits

As printed on ourjourneythruautism.com

Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of all the therapeutic benefits of swimming and playing in the pool. Many children who have difficulty controlling their bodies for sports and gross motor activities will have success moving in thewater. Its also such a calming and organizing sensory environment that it can provide a grounding experience for the child that can often last for the rest of the day..

Sensory Experience

Water provides 30x more deep pressure to the body than air and it is uniquely a is full contact input to the body. Many children who become adept at swimming underwater will find it a very calming and organizing place to be. Moving through water creates controlled vestibular stimulation in various planes. All of this enhanced sensory input helps with body awareness development and motor learning. In addition to swimming, children can walk, somersault, or do angels in the water when supported on their backs. The water is a natural environment for children to improve their oral-motor skills. Blowing bubbles in the water, blowing through a straw, or blowing ping pong balls across the pool are fun ways to introduce blowing skills. The intense sensory input in the water will often increase language and lots of singing in the pool will further enhance those opportunities.

Gross Motor Skills

Water can either assist or provide resistance to active movement through all planes of motion, facilitating gains in strength for all major muscle groups. The gravity-lessened environment of water can help children explore and practice movements and skills they are not yet able to perform on land. Children with have difficulty standing on one leg, jumping, or hopping on land can do so in the water. Children who are learningto walk are assisted by the water because it slows down movements and gives the child more time to react. A fun way to practice these skills is to pretend to be different animals for a length of the pool: jump like a frog, paddle like a seal, float like a fish, gallop like a horse. For children who benefit from visual cues, bring a collection of plastic animals that the child can choose from.

Motor Planning
Motor planning skills can be enhanced by experimenting with different ways to use a pool noodle, such as sitting on it like a swing, or a horse, or floating on back with the noodle under knees. Similarly, see how many ways a child can use a kickboard, from sitting to kneeling to standing to holding it and kicking legs.

Have Fun

Even when looking at swimming and playing in the water as therapeutic, as long as the child is moving in the water, they are getting a benefit. Focus on fun and all of the other benefits will come!

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