Swimming is great. Not just for CP, not just for kids -swimming is great. Non-weight bearing, low or high intensity and reasonably cheap and accessible. For parents with children with disability it often offers the ability to hold and move their child without the risk of the child falling down or injury to themselves.
Hopefully it is obvious to point out that swimming with a disabled child should be done with an experienced qualified therapist, at least in part.
We literally threw Charlie in at about 3 months- we had no clue he had any issues of health problems and he loved it, he was in his element in the pool from being quite young. However, as his high muscle tone and spasticity became more apparent he found it harder to relax in the water as he got a little older. He would arch his back and go ‘stiff as a board’ as his confidence was tested and his legs became more like lead weights. He was much happier on inflatable whales or sat in floating chairs. He still loved it though, even having his face in the water and being dunked (whoops) from about a year old onwards.
It has taken a fair bit of effort to get Charlie to relax enough to kick and splash and generally use the wiliness to be in the water effectively. A few tips and an extremely able swimming instructor have really enabled Charlie to benefit from the therapeutic effect swimming and the water can have. Again, much like with the treadmill there is tons of literature detailing the scientific, medical benefit of swimming on children with CP, (LINK). We worried if we would find somewhere or someone that would be happy to take on the additional risks a CP child might bring to the pool… we needn’t have.
Sharon of Aquanauts, Charlie’s instructor, has been brilliant with the boy. She coaxes him and relaxes him whilst he realises he can move his body with little resistance and learns those skill necessary to swim. He loves his goggles and he loves being propelled under the water, interestingly she doesn’t encourage the use of armbands. We have been able to get him to do/manage a 30min session every week- and even better, he looks forward to it! Sharon is super, she keeps Charlie interested with a seemingly infinite range of activities; she is very patient and understanding- although I think Charlie might think he can wrap her around his mischievous little finger too!
Tip: Blow on a child’s face (causing them to take a breath in) before bouncing them under the water. Charlie loved it- often giggling uncontrollably and it help him develop his confidence being under the water.