GUEST POST BY NANCY HIGGS – www.waterwaybabies.com
A warm water environment is a place of freedom, independence, and stimulation for a child with limitations. It is an equalizer of sorts. Paediatric aquatic therapy is a growing field. Physical therapists (physios in certain countries), occupational therapists, and speech therapists may choose to work with your child in the water. WaterWayBabies is not a replacement for these therapeutic interventions. It is solely an adjunct to traditional modalities, and a way for you, the parent, to enhance your child’s movements, strength, and abilities through the water. Additionally, you may find that your child’s therapist uses the Water Way Babies neck ring to allow better manipulation of limbs by freeing the therapist’s hands from weight-bearing or head holding.
WaterWayBabies is intended to be a pleasurable activity for both child and parent. It consists of placing the inflated floatation device around the child’s neck before placing said child in a small pool-like tub of therapeutically warm water (92-93*F or 33.33-33.88*C) at home. Time spent in the water may be as little as 5 minutes at first and can progress to 45 minutes to an hour as tolerated. If the child cries, the session is over until the next time. Therapy is usually not fun…so it is highly important to keep this water experience enjoyable.
Within days if not hours, the infant or young child will begin to unfurl knotted fists, swinging her/his arms back and forth in the water. Kicking soon progresses to paddling one’s way across the pool while pushing off the sides. As the child seemingly instinctively learns to rotate, the turning and twisting in the neck ring will significantly increase her/his trunk strength.
Few of my Waterway babies or kids have complete healing, but all of them have positive outcomes from swimming in their neck rings. In addition to improved trunk strength and muscle tone, the most profound impact is enhanced lung function. Water places gentle hydrostatic pressure on the body, causing chest wall muscles to work harder to expand. Over time and with enough exposure, this translates into stronger lungs. In addition, these children, often nonverbal, begin to vocalize while swimming, which usually carries over when not in the water. One child who swam 30-45 minutes daily for 6 months developed a cough/gag reflex when she previously had none. Pulmonary infections are the leading cause of death (and re-hospitalizations) for children with special needs, making lung health of paramount importance.
Improved sleep patterns, decreased constipation, and visual stimulation are only a few of the other noted benefits. But just as important as the physical aspects, is the profound psychosocial component that comes when a dependent child becomes independent in the water, moving her legs or arms herself, relieved from the negative effects of gravity. Being supported in an upright position uniquely and positively alters both the child’s and the parents’ perspective from the reclined position where these children spend much of their lives. There is quite frankly not much that can compare with witnessing spontaneous movement and a child’s smiling face, full of self-actualization.
See for yourself – www.waterwaybabies.com, or friend me on Facebook – Nancy Higgs/Waterwaybabies. You can also view several parent videos on youtube by searching Waterwaybabies or Waterway babies. Thank you!
P.S.(Natan Shai loves his waterway system as you can see in the video and pictures 🙂 – Hannah)