What are the benefits of swimming for cerebral palsy children?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination. A common symptom of CP is muscle stiffness. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are several kinds of treatment. Treatments that aid in battling muscle stiffness include physiotherapy, Botox injections and prescription medication. Another treatment that helps with muscle tightness is swimming.

Swimming as Therapy

Under the correct supervision, swimming is practically a risk-free form of therapy for children with cerebral palsy. A swimming pool provides an ideal environment for CP patients. The buoyancy of the water relieves stress normally placed on muscles by gravity. The water also gives the child a grander range of motion and coordination, allowing the child a chance to build muscles and improve coordination. Plus, the sensation of water on the body is good for neurological development.

Safe Environment

Swimming is considered safer than physiotherapy because unlike land therapy, there are no hard surfaces in the pool for the child to fall and hurt himself on. As long as there is a qualified swim therapist in the water with your child, the water will prove to be a safe environment. A child with CP should never be left in a swimming pool without adult supervision.

Water Temperature

Warm water is the most beneficial to children with cerebral palsy because warm water relaxes stiff muscles. Cold water can have a freezing effect on muscle spasms, making the task of swimming difficult. Always be sure the temperature of the water is warm when utilising the activity of swimming for therapeutic purposes.

Benefit of Flippers

Having a child wear flippers while swimming can increase therapeutic benefits. Flippers give a child's kick more force, allowing the child to focus more on his upper-body strokes, thereby increasing upper-body strength. Starting with a smaller-size flipper and progressing to a larger size flipper is best. Flippers should properly fit a child's foot.

Building Confidence

The ultimate goal of using swimming as therapy for children with cerebral palsy is to increase independence. Increasing a child's independence can increase the child's self-confidence. Having good self-confidence can help a child enjoy a more fulfilling childhood.

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About the Author

Zachary Fenell is a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame College of Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication with minors in philosophy and writing. Fenell has been writing since 2002, when he joined his high school newspaper, "The Arc Light." In college Fenell won awards for excellence in English and communication.