Swimming benefits disabled children
The majority of children learn to swim through swimming lessons, either at school, local sports centre or by family teaching. For disabled children however, without a one-to-one situation most will never learn to swim.
Level Water is an organisation that highlights how swimming benefits disabled children, and offers a lifeline to those who desire it.
Why is swimming important?
Over time, able bodied people who can’t swim lose their confidence around water. For a disabled person this multiplies tenfold, and their fear of water makes it difficult, if not impossible, to participate in water based activities.
For children, swimming and having confidence around water opens up a whole host of recreational sports and pastimes that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. For a disabled child, who is never given the opportunity to learn to swim, holidays beside pools, rivers, lakes or the sea are not a relaxing option.
Swimming is a wonderful environment for disabled children. The buoyancy of the water can not only help with pain, it can also remove some of the feelings of being disabled. Motion of limbs and body seems easier and through the therapeutic properties of water it can improve balance and strength too.
Swimming offers children and adults alike enjoyment, lifesaving skills and also a pathway towards general health and fitness. Able bodied children taught in groups can be water safe in –
- Aged 6-18 months old; one to two years.
- 18 months-3 years old; one year.
- 3 years+; 6 months to one year.
For disabled children, even with one-to-one teaching it can take up to 12 months to get them to the stage where they are even able to join a group lesson.
Level Water funds a programme that gives one-to-one lessons to children who are :-
- Aged 4-11.
- Physically disabled.
- Can not swim 10m.
They teach them until they are able to swim the basics of front crawl, breastroke and backstroke, for at least 10m unaided. The average time taken for this is around 35 lessons. From this point on the children are usually confident enough to join a mainstream class and continue their swimming progress.
What swimming can give a disabled child
Water confidence gives a disabled child more than a lifesaving skill. Parents of children who have taken part in the Level Water scheme have seen huge growth in their confidence and self esteem. They become able to tackle increasingly difficult personal challenges, whilst learning how to interact and behave within a sporting circle.
Although life will throw many barriers at these children, swimming can increase their physical and emotional confidence and so help towards a healthy social pathway.
Unfortunately disabled children are much more prone to obesity, simply because they do not wish to participate in sport and physical activity. Swimming can truly change all of this as one parent said about her son: “I had not considered any kind of sport as a possibility for him. He has not put any limits on his own achievements, nor does he expect any. I have now decided I will make all athletics accessible to him, we won’t know what he is capable of until we have tried our hardest to help him achieve his very best. Having the right support from Level Water is truly a life-changer.”
So with organisations like Level Water, and Olympic heroes like Rebecca Adlington supporting these schemes, it remains to be seen just how far swimming can improve the lives of disabled children all over the UK.