Occupational Therapy in the Pool

In recognition of National OT month, we thought we might share some insights on what aquatic occupational therapy looks like compared to traditional land-based treatment.

Regardless of the setting, occupational therapists rely on one foundation in their treatments, which are the occupations of each client. In pediatrics, play is often the occupation used to provide meaningful, purposeful, and individualized treatment plans for each child. 

Photo by Edneil Jocusol on Pexels.com

OT in a pool setting targets pediatric occupations as the pool is an instinctive play-based environment. Instead of a sensory gym, our entire treatment area is a sensory experience due to the properties of water. For instance, simply diving underwater provides a barrier to external light and noise, and increases deep pressure, proprioceptive, and tactile inputs. These barriers and inputs help target executive functioning, emotional regulation, coordination, and many other skills in the pool. Additionally, when you’re underwater, you unconsciously begin working on your breathing pattern as you innately coordinate your breaths with each plunge under the water.

Let’s think about another way OTs treat in the pool, such as teaching the skill of floating. Floating might seem like a simple task once you have it down, but when you break it down by each component, there’s a lot to it! To start, you must have a sense of your body in space- or proprioception, to figure out how to coordinate your arms, legs, and body to the top of the water. Secondly, floating is used as a great regulation tool, as your ears are covered- thus noise is blocked out, and your breathing pattern begins to slow down. Lastly, floating is simply a great safety skill to learn. Unfortunately, drowning continues to be the leading cause of death in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Thus, learning how to float, and how to position your body into a float independently is a vital skill that could save your child’s life. 

Altogether, while it might look different, OT in the pool makes so much sense! At TheraSWIM, we strive to use our unique setting to maximize your child’s sensory experiences while increasing their swimming and water safety skills. While no two children are the same, all children can benefit from customized swimming programs- whether this is through occupational or physical therapy treatments or adaptive swimming lessons with our skilled therapists and instructors.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us at info@theraswimkids.com

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