Adaptive Aquatics of Just Aquatics
Stein, Julian U., Parks & Recreation
A vital link in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities in the aquatics area is to prepare regular aquatic personnel at all levels to work and deal with individuals with disabilities in regular programs and activities, including swimming, diving, small craft, skin and SCUBA diving, sailing, and competition.
When regular aquatic personnel realize that these programs and involvements are desired by those with disabilities - not as therapy or rehabilitation - and that the programs can be accomplished with minimal modifications and common sense accommodations, they can assimilate and integrate individuals with disabilities into their programs and activities. To accomplish this requires every aquatic course to infuse, in all units of instruction, implications and applications for participants with disabilities. Special courses and programs, such as adapted aquatics, can also be designed for those with severe, profound, and multiple conditions
Training courses, workshops, clinics, seminars, summits, and certification must be reviewed, evaluated, and changed. No longer can approaches appropriate for the past be accepted and tolerated for the present and future. Changes are necessary.
Whether generalists or specialists, instructors must be highly committed and dedicated to fulfilling their moral and ethical responsibilities, and in meeting challenges of aquatic activities which include participants with disabilities. Instructors must possess empathy (not sympathy) for individuals with disabilities, and be strong advocates for equality of opportunities through aquatics. Teamwork through communication, cooperation and coordination with other individuals and agencies is a must for success.
Moving to the Next Level
From rehabilitation to independent community function is an integrated continuum to provide aquatic activities for individuals with disabilities. To get there I suggest:
* decrease traditional therapies, with increasing use of typical aquatic activities; decrease participation at clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation centers, with increasing participation in community agencies and facilities;
* promote cooperation, networking and transition from one program to another;
* decrease staff roles in decision making, with increasing self-determination by program participants; and
* de-emphasize the traditional medical model, while increasing emphasis on functional approaches focusing on ways in which an individual's condition affects ability to learn and perform aquatic skills.
Independent Community Function in Aquatic Recreation and Leisure
Active participation in aquatic activities is governed by personal interests and self-determination as individuals take part with friends, family, and peers in separate-to-integrated settings, and at all ability levels (i.e., beginner to elite). Program sponsors continue to be community agencies (i.e., adult education, YM/YWCAs, recreation departments, park boards, special interest groups, sport clubs, disabled sport organizations, swimming/aquatic national governing bodies, voluntary agencies, colleges/universities). The development of cooperative networks and partnerships among all agencies is extremely important at this stage of the continuum. Leisure education and leisure counseling continue.
The concept underlying the model (from rehabilitation to independent community function) can be applied between contiguous and within stages in the continuum. Keys to all applications of this model lie in understanding the concept of the continuum, making adaptations according to specifics of other situations and environments, implementing appropriately, working together, and keeping the participant, not the agency as dominant - shout the cause; whisper the organization.
From Rehab to
The patient may begin in a hospital, clinic, or rehabilitation center and be provided aquatic activity through traditional therapies (ie., physical therapy, occupational therapy, therapeutic recreations) as integral parts of formal rehabilitation services. The patient also participates in typical aquatic activities to enhance physiological, psychological, emotional, and social aspects of the rehabilitation process. Leisure education and counseling are important parts of these processes.
Next the patient (in a hospital, clinic, or rehabilitation center) increases participation in typical aquatic activities for all the same reasons as others participate in such activities (i.e., fun, fitness, social contact, skill development, appropriate leisure pursuits, exploration, building positive self-concept). Leisure education and leisure counseling continue to be important as both rehabilitation and aquatic staffs are involved at this stage of the continuum.
While goals, objectives, and activities are little if any different from the previous stage, the site for participation changes to community programs and facilities (i.e., YM/YWCAs, recreation department, park boards, voluntary agencies, sport clubs, colleges/universities). Initially, staff personnel from the hospital, clinic, or rehabilitation center work together with the community agency aquatic staff, which gradually increases its roles and responsibilities of the clinic; facility aquatic staff are gradually phased out. Leisure education and leisure counseling are continued, especially as a means of expanding and extending program participant's knowledge of new, different, and available aquatic activities in the community.
Sites and staff, as in the previous stage, remain unchanged but responsibility shifts to the community agency aquatic staff. Program emphasis is upon refining existing skills, developing new skills, having opportunities for additional instruction in a variety of aquatic activities, including at advanced levels. An important goal at this stage is increasing independent function and selfactualizing behaviors. Leisure education and leisure counseling continue throughout this stage of the continuum.
Has the term "adapted aquatics" run its course, served its purpose, and outlived its usefulness? Does this term now have unnecessary and unwarranted negative connotations and effects on all populations - individuals with disabilities themselves, adapted aquatic specialists, regular aquatic instructors, administrators, supervisors, the general public? Does this subconsciously perpetuate old and outdated concepts, actually militating against including and integrating individuals with disabilities in regular aquatic programs and activities? Does this term imply to many therapy and rehabilitation, rather than typical aquatic activities? What could and should be the direction for any terminology changes, if any?
While aquatic activities are important and valuable for therapy and rehabilitation in hospital and clinical environments, the large majority of individuals with temporary or permanent disabilities want and need to participate in aquatic activities in the same environments, in the same ways, and for all the same reasons as non-disabled persons-fun and enjoyment during leisure time, becoming more skilled in specific aquatic activities; improving personal fitness, wellness, and quality of life; recreation and relaxation; responding to individual challenges; taking part in socialization with friends, family, and com
The Past Is Prologue
To focus on the future of adapted aquatics, it is necessary to explore where we have been, and where we are. The past is prologue, and the harvest of the past provides seeds for the future; yes, today is yesterday's tomorrow! So, let us quickly revisit the past and present to give direction into the future.
Many exciting and productive activities and contributions provide bases, important historical foundations, and framework of what could be done with and for individuals with disabilities through the full range of aquatic activities.
* An early American National Red Cross monograph provided practical and functional how-to's for teaching swimming to individuals considered mentally retarded.
* For almost three quarters of a century, important activities in camps for those with specific disabilities consisted of swimming and other aquatic activities.
* In the early 1960's, Grace Reynolds initiated and implemented for over 10 years in Longview, Washington, workshops emphasizing swimming instruction and participation for children and youth with various disabilities in community, community/ school, and camp programs. From these early and ongoing efforts resulted several important nationally funded projects, such as Project Aquatics, Project Aquatics Mainstreaming, and Project Fit. Ms. Reynolds extended and expanded her efforts and activities through both the National and International YMCA's, including certification of aquatic instructors for the handicapped (terminology then in vogue), and now through the Disabled International Foundation.
* Since its founding in 1952, the Recreation Center for the Handicapped in San Francisco (now simply called RCH), through the vision and leadership of Janet Pomeroy, included swimming and other aquatic activities in a variety of settings (in its own pool as well as public facilities) for its program participants of all ages, who did not have to be ambulatory, possess speech, or be toilet trained. Many times during the early days, these programs were conducted in borrowed, make-shift, or improvised facilities.
*Through the efforts of Louise Priest, the American National Red Cross developed and implemented extensive aquatic programs, including publications, audiovisual material, training, and certification. It was Ms. Priest who introduced the current term "adapted aquatics."
*The Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics supported and promoted needs of individuals with disabilities through its efforts, and co-sponsored with the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), the late 1960's, an extensive publication, Teaching the Mentally Retarded to Swim.
* For 20 years the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports included sessions on swimming for individuals with disabilities in its extremely popular, effective, and well-attended regional clinics throughout the country.
* Through AAHPERD's Unit on Programs for the Handicapped, and Information and Research Utilization Center, many material, activities, workshops, conferences, and convention sessions focused on aquatic activities for those with disabilities.
* Sue Grosse (Milwaukee) developed, and still operates, the Computerized Information Retrieval System in Adapted Aquatics (CIRSA), providing latest information and material regarding adapted aquatics/aquatics involving participants with disabilities. The number of periodical articles, books, videos, monographs, curricular materials, web sites and assessment devices continue to become available, so CIRSA continues to provide a welcome and important service. During 2001 the entire CIRSA database was integrated with the Sports Information Resource Center, the official worldwide database for physical education, sport, and recreation recognized by UNESCO, which is housed in Canada. Grosse also conducts many innovation aquatic activities for students in her school.
* Judy Newman (Angel View Children's Foundation in California) showed conclusively that children with severe physical disabilities could learn swimming activities. She also demonstrated that through instructional and recreational swimming, a great deal of therapeutic values and benefits could accrue.
* A demonstration project (in the Seattle public schools) built a very successful curriculum for students classified as mentally retarded around swimming, integrating virtually all elements in the total curriculum around weekly swimming instruction and participation.
* Instructional, developmental and competitive programs planned and implemented by different disabled sport organizations (i.e., United Association of Blind Athletes, Disabled Sports/USA, U.S. Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association, Special Olympics) have provided aquatic opportunities from recreational to competitive, including the Paralympics, and International Special Olympics.
* United States Swimming, national governing body for the sport, included a variety of activities, materials, and programs to support and promote swimming for individuals with disabilities at all levels, local to international.
* The Aquatics Council of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance developed and disseminated an important position paper on Adapted Aquatics, and for over 10 years has conducted a several tier certification program for trainers, instructors/teachers, and aides.
* Innovative, creative, and resourceful instructors/teachers began to use a variety of assistive and flotation devices to enable individuals with different disabilities to participate, and be successful, in aquatic programs of all types, and at all levels, both in special and regular programs.
* Some visionary and forward thinking professionals began to get individuals with various disabilities integrated into regular aquatic programs and activities (by hook or crook), instructional, recreational, fitness, and even competitive. These represent just a few of the many exciting and productive activities and projects, and dedicated and committed individuals and agencies, that have contributed to aquatic opportunities for individuals with disabilities over the past 40 to 50 years or more - let's not lose sight of these often pioneering and important contributions, as past history provides a window to the future. Progress In Our Most
What are some threads and characteristics of many (maybe most) of these activities and projects? What can we learn from them today to insure that services to individuals with disabilities through aquatic programs continue to progress, moving forward and onward? What needs to be (and must be) changed to guaranteed continued growth and progress?
* Seldom were individuals with disabilities themselves involved in and provided opportunities to let their needs and feelings be known to guide and influence their programs and activities. Individuals with disabilities must be integral parts of their own programs and activities, including leadership at all levels, encompassing roles as teachers, instructors, coaches, administrators, supervisors, program organizers, decision and policy-makers, and self-advocates.
* The great majority (if not all) of these programs and efforts were segregated and special - for so long this was the only way individuals with disabilities could and were being served. Today, emphasis is, as it should be, on including individuals with disabilities in regular programs and activities with their friends, peers, and families they should only be placed in special programs when absolutely necessary. The concept of least restrictive environment, and its continuum of alternative placements, part and parcel since 1975 of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now individuals with Disabilities Education Act), is most appropriate fro all aquatic programs and activities. To place an individual in a regular program for which he or she is not prepared is cruel! To keep an individual out of a regular program for which he or she is prepared is criminal!
* Facility accessibility was a great problem, as many individuals could not get in the front door of a pool, much less traverse locker rooms, and use showers and toilets, or get in and out of pools themselves. When new aquatic facilities are planned and constructed, they are now totally accessible for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of their conditions or levels of severities.
Many innovative and creative ways are available to make old, inaccessible pools accessible - i.e., removable platforms to provide shallow depths; lifts of various kinds; appropriate uses of different flotation devices; improvised, temporary, and removable ramps.
* The medical model dictated approaches, whereby focus was on the condition and what an individual could not do. Categorical generalizations and stereotypes abounded, with specific activities and methods felt to be the only way individuals with different disabilities could be reached and taught. We must divorce ourselves from this medical model, and encompass functional approaches whereby emphasis is on how an individual's condition affects his/her ability to learn and participate in aquatic activities.
* What is really special about teaching progressions and assessment devices purported to be specifically for individuals with different disabilities? Objective evaluation of these reveals the same sequences and progressions that have been part of good instructional programs since time immorium! They have simply been task analyzed to introduce additional steps at more basic and fundamental levels. These same approaches are quite appropriate, and often necessary, for some non-disabled individuals as well.
* When categorization was the modus operandi of the time, many inconsistencies existed. Consistency between theory and practice must be in terms of what is best for each individual participant-individualize and personalize all approaches.
* Aquatic instruction and recreation involving individuals with disabilities should not be confused with aquatic or hydrotherapy, an extremely important part of the rehabilitation process, The two are not synonymous each has its own distinct goals and specific objectives. This distinction neither negates therapeutic contributions from educational and recreational aquatics programs, nor educational and recreational values from therapeutic programs. Focus must be kept on primary goals.
Five As must always be kept foremost as aquatic programs and activities are planned and implemented for participants with disabilities
Total accessibility of all aquatic facilities.
Appropriate accommodations in approaches and activities so individuals with disabilities can participate fully.
Positive attitudes toward aquatic programs and activities by individuals with disabilities, including their rights and responsibilities, and by all providers of such services to include participants with disabilities in their programs and activities, including their responsibilities and rights.
Strong advocacy for aquatic programs involving individuals with disabilities, and for self-advocacy by individuals with disabilities themselves.
Relevant assimilation into regular aquatic programs and activities in the same environments with non-disabled friends, peers, and families.…
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Publication information: Article title: Adaptive Aquatics of Just Aquatics. Contributors: Stein, Julian U. - Author. Magazine title: Parks & Recreation. Volume: 37. Issue: 2 Publication date: February 2002. Page number: 46+. © 2009 National Recreation and Park Association. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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