Would Aquatic Therapy Benefit My Child with Autism?
Are you at a loss on how to further help your child? Is your child in a rut with the same therapeutic approaches they’ve been doing for years? Or perhaps, your child is opposed to therapy because of past experiences? What you may need is a fresh new take on therapy that is extraordinarily fun and effective. Consider Aquatic Therapy.
Aquatic therapy is the use of water to improve your child’s physiological and psychological functioning, by providing speech, occupational, or physical therapy services in the water. Water’s unique properties such as density, buoyancy, and even pressure elicit astounding therapeutic gains which cannot be matched in any other setting.
Sensory Processing Skills
Children with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information from their environment. These challenges can result in extreme behaviors and difficulty engaging in daily life. Most of us are familiar with the use of weighted vests or blankets to help our children feel calm and regulated. Water is like the ultimate weighted blanket. Water provides nearly 30 times the amount of deep pressure stimulation than air, and it does so evenly on every part of the body that is submerged under water. This not only helps children to behaviorally regulate, but it helps their sensory systems to be better modulated in order to integrate and respond to other sensory input that may be difficult for them to tolerate outside the water — things like certain textures, sounds, or visual input.
Water has unique properties that allow us to develop muscle strength and coordination in ways that we never could on the ground. Water is 600 to 700 times more resistive than air, so every purposeful movement your child makes in the pool has exponentially greater impact on developing their strength and endurance. Water’s buoyancy also decreases the effects of gravity while increasing freedom of movement and range of motion. This allows children to feel a greater sense of confidence in trying new or challenging movements. The best part is all this exercise looks a lot more like play when you’re splashing around in the pool. Kids are likely to stay engaged and enjoy their therapeutic activities.
Communication and Social Skills
Aquatic therapy has shown greater improvements in eye contact, verbal communication, and social skills than services provided in a traditional setting. As we blow bubbles in the water, teach breathing skills, and even spit water out like whales we are able to address oral motor skills directly through play. These oral motor skills influence the way we talk, eat, and drink. Clinicians agree that children initiate and maintain eye contact more in the pool than other environments. The pool is also an excellent place to learn cooperation and competition with peers and therapists through water games that are fun and engaging.
The calming impact of being in the pool not only enhances the child’s attention and cooperation during the therapy session, but parents and clinicians alike state that effects last well past the therapy session. Research supports that water helps improve mood, impulse control, self-esteem, anxiety, and shows a marked decrease in problem behaviors.
Consider turning therapy into a splashing good time! Most children have an affinity for water and this appears to be even more true for children with autism. The benefits are enormous, just like the smile on your child’s face. Aquatic therapy may be just the tool your child needs to unlock new doors and achieve success!
Shandy Clinic has more than eleven clinics along the Front Range of Colorado offering OT, PT, ST, and ABA services, as well as Mutidisciplinary Autism Evaluations. They offer aquatic therapy along with other effective therapeutic services including animal assisted therapy, orthopedic physical therapy, and feeding therapy. More information can be found at shandyclinic.com.
Shandy Clinic was a Gold Sponsor of the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference 2021.
Aquatic Therapy Sessions Improve Sensory Processing. (2017, January 19). Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://springbrookautismbehavioral.com/portfolio-item/aquatic-therapy-for-children-with-autism-is-fun-safe-and-effective/
Cronin, S. (2020, January 27). Why Should You Use Aquatic Therapy For Children With Autism? Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://cheshirefitnesszone.com/why-should-you-use-aquatic-therapy-for-children-with-autism/
Ford-Lanza, A. (2018, October 22). Aquatic Therapy for Children with Special Needs. Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://www.adaptandlearn.com/post/aquatic-therapy-for-children-with-special-needs
Water-based Speech Therapy. (2017, March 06). Retrieved December 19, 2020, from https://www.childrenstherapyteam.com/index.php/2016/02/22/water-based-speech-therapyBack to Our Blog