The following article is a guest contribution written by Rick Patterson of Poolonomics.com – a pool and spa care blog.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ENABLE Special Needs Planning.
Swimming is a full body activity that helps children stay active while burning off calories and energy at the same time.
The benefits of swimming for children with special needs are numerous, backed by statistics, and can help them learn potentially life-saving skills while improving many aspects of their life.
Keep Them Safe
Keeping children with special needs safe is of the utmost importance, and even more so when it comes to swimming in pools, lakes, or any other body of water.
According to the National Autism Association, drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism. This is due to their fascination with water, tendency to wander, and their lack of understanding where the dangers of water are concerned.
Learning how to swim can provide children with special needs the survival skills required if they ever find themselves accidentally in water. The spatial awareness and increase in balance that’s developed from swimming may also prevent them from falling off a pool deck and into the water to begin with.
Get Them Moving
Some of the most transformative benefits are the physical ones that result from getting basic exercise.
Physically, children with special needs will see a vast improvement, with better heart health and improved lung function leading the way.
Cognitive processing will also get better. These are mental processes such as thinking, remembering, knowing, judging, and solving problems.
Additionally, a boost in motor skills will also take place. This happens because coordination becomes stronger when children with special needs learn how to move their legs and arms simultaneously. As the brain remembers this link, improvements in sitting, standing, walking, running, jumping, lifting, and kicking can be expected.
An area of concern for children with special needs is the obesity rates, which are 38% higher than for children without disabilities. By swimming regularly, it helps them burn off calories accumulated from their sedentary lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight.
The buoyancy and warmth of swimming pool water also provides an effortless way to build muscle strength, and also provides relaxation to the muscles, increasing flexibility. Additionally, studies have shown that children with chronic pain issues can find some degree of relief from swimming regularly.
Keep Them Mentally Strong
A child’s mental health state is vital to their development, and the endorphins associated with swimming provide mood elevation benefits that pay off in spades.
Children with special needs will see an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, as learning how to swim exposes them to new situations and people, improving their social skills.
Of course, the benefits of aerobic exercise in the treatment of depression are well-documented and swimming is no different, elevating the heart rate to reduce stress and anxiety. Contrary to common beliefs, swimming actually reduces instances of fatigue, as moving around in the water gets blood and oxygen circulating throughout the body and boosts energy levels.
There Are Only Upsides
The benefits of swimming for children with special needs come with plenty of upsides, and very little (if any) downsides.
It will have profoundly positive effects on both their body and mind, while at the same time teaching them how to remain safe and be more social as they move through life.