Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Aquatics Therapy and the Halliwick Concept

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Aquatics Therapy and the Halliwick Concept

Article excerpt

Aquatics therapy is the use of the properties of water for the therapeutic benefit of people of all ages and abilities. This article will illustrate how people with disabilities may maximize the benefits of activities in water, including individual and group work and swimming. The overall aim is to encourage family activity and social interaction.

The Halliwick Concept was developed by James McMillan in the late 1940s at Halliwick, a school for girls with disabilities in London, UK. This concept places strong emphasis on ability rather than disability and on the application of the effects of water on the human body. To clarify, the people involved in the Concept use the term "Swimmer" for the person who is learning and "Instructor" for the helper or teacher. There is a one-to-one ratio of instructor to swimmer until the swimmer has reached a stage of proficiency such as to be independent and safe in water. No flotation aids are used so that the swimmer learns to use the support of the water and the instructor stands, rather than floats, to facilitate their activities.

The Concept is based on the application of the 10- Point Program, which follows:

1. Mental Adjustment

This is a continuous process from the start of a program. The swimmer learns to adjust and control the body and to utilize the effects of water so that he/she becomes happy, water confident, and safe. The instructor teaches breathing control-essential for safety and progression. Different activities and movements are introduced so that the swimmer experiences the ways water affects them.

2. Disengagement

This is also a continuous process. At the start, the instructor judges and applies the amount of manual support required for the safety and confidence of the swimmer. This is gradually reduced as the swimmer progresses. The process involves turning from facing the instructor to having the back to the instructor, thereby, reducing eye to eye contact, changing instructors including going from parents to others, moving away from the side of the pool, changing from feet on floor to lying back, reduction of verbal instructions, independent entry to the pool, basic swimming stroke, changing groups, and integrating socially.

3. Transversal Rotational Control

This involves movement in a forward and backward direction e.g., lying back and sitting up and rocking to and fro. This can be hard work to initiate but easy to control. The most advanced form is somersaulting.

4. Sagittal Rotational Control

This involves movement in a side-to-side direction like a pendulum. The whole body may move as the instructor moves the swimmer in and out of 'rocks,' like sea-weeding, or the trunk may move side-to-side at the waist. These movements are helpful in gaining relaxation, which in turn promotes confidence and mental adjustment.

5. Longitudinal Rotational Control

The swimmer turns around, as in turning to face different directions in upright or lying positions. It is easy to initiate and difficult to control. The swimmer may initiate this movement by turning the head or by positioning the arm or leg across the body in the direction of movement. Importantly, the swimmer must learn to control this rotation when it is produced by the turbulence of the water created by other people moving around.

6. Combined Rotational Control

This combines the other three, particularly transversal and longitudinal. It is especially useful for enabling the swimmer to recover from a forward movement to turn into a safe breathing position. For example, if the swimmer is prone, turning and sitting up (known as forward recovery) builds confidence. On reaching the side of the pool in a back lying position, the swimmer reaches over to grasp the pool rail, turns to the vertical, and is safe. If a swimmer falls forward in trying to get the feet off the floor, then turning the head to look at the instructor facilitates this control and ensures safety. …

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