Adaptive Aquatics of Just Aquatics

By Stein, Julian U. | Parks & Recreation, February 2002 | Go to article overview

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


Aquatic Activities

for Rehabilitation

The patient may begin in a hospital, clinic, or rehabilitation center and be provided aquatic activity through traditional therapies (ie.

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