Individuals with many different types of diagnoses and goals can benefit greatly from the advantages of having their therapy conducted in the water. Individuals with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, Down syndrome, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays, cognitive delays, healing fractures, muscle injuries, juvenile arthritis, cardiopulmonary disorders, chronic pain, hyperactivity, pediatric stroke, hypertonia, speech delays, and countless other diagnoses, can benefit greatly from aquatic therapy.
The unique properties of water have an unmatched impact on therapeutic progress:
–Buoyancy: The buoyancy of water removes the effects of gravity, allowing those who cannot walk on land, to walk in the water; those who do not have the muscle strength to exercise on land, exercise in the water; and individual who cannot fully weight-bear on land, due to recent surgery or a broken bone, weight-bear in the water. The buoyancy of water also allows those with decreased endurance due to heart or lung problems, to enjoy fun (and therapeutic) physical activities while in the water, that their hearts or lungs are not strong enough to tolerate on-land.
–Resistance: The resistance of water provides calming and consistent sensory feedback. Children who are sensory seeking, hyperactive, or have difficulty focusing on activities during therapy on-land, are calmed and neurologically organized by the resistance of the water pushing on them from all directions, with consistent pressure, the entire time they are in the water. This constant, neurologically-organizing, sensory input allows these children to focus, learn new things, and reach their therapy goals sooner (and can also decrease hyperactivity for a few hours following therapy, as well as improve sleep patterns). The resistance of water also allows for easier muscle strengthening and endurance training, when used as a true method of formal resistance, with specific, pre-determined, repetitive movements, performed with the intent of strengthening specific muscle groups.
–Warmth: The warmth of the water warms muscle tissue for better, easier, and pain-free stretching, for improved passive range of motion. The warmth of the water also provides yet another form of sensory input (heat) to those sensory-seeking individuals, that acts to calm the sensory system.
–Viscosity: The viscosity of the water is what makes the water so much fun! Splashing, making waves, pouring and throwing water, not only improves active range of motion, muscle strength, and endurance, but it is also REALLY FUN! It provides a unique opportunity for multi-sensory feedback (visual stimuli, tactile stimuli, proprioceptive stimuli, kinesthetic stimuli, and auditory stimuli) that people just can’t get enough of!
–Auditory feedback: The auditory feedback that occurs during aquatic play/aquatic therapy, in an indoor pool, not only from the unique sound of water hitting water, but also from the unique sound of sound-waves hitting the walls and reverberating back to the listener, is an amazing motivator for those who have speech delays, to produce sounds and words! When individuals hear the amplification and echoes of sounds that they are producing with speech therapy toys used to strengthen oral-motor musculature or improve lung capacity, they make more sounds! Echoes are fun! Noise amplification is fun! Kids love sound, and it motivates them to make more sound!
–Uniqueness: The unique setting of an indoor pool, for most people, is very motivating and makes therapy even more fun! All activities that can be done on-land (and may seem dull or monotonous on-land) can be done in, or around, the pool, and seem fun and completely non-therapeutic! Self-care skills are a great example. Individuals who often look at dressing, grooming, hygiene, etc., as boring and mundane, see them as more rewarding when done in preparation for getting into the pool!
– The Pool! Additionally, fine-motor activities, developmental skills, cognitive skills, and muscle strengthening skills, can all be done from the pool. Stations, or, “Islands,” can be created, that an individual, “boats to,” on the water mat, water cushion, or boogie board, where he completes an activity before, “boating,” on to the next station or, “Island!”
Please contact us with any questions you have about aquatic therapy with our therapists!