Everything we do throughout the day interacts with our senses. When you bite into an apple, notice a breeze across your face or smell your friend’s perfume, your brain and nervous system process the sensory input and translate it in some way. For kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), everyday activities can become very overwhelming. If the brain can’t properly interpret sensory signals, anxiety and meltdowns often result.
When it comes to swimming, anything from the temperature of the water to the sound of other swimmers may prove challenging for a child with SPD. Because swimming is such an important life skill, however, lessons shouldn’t be avoided altogether. Instead, implement these three tips for learning to swim when a processing disorder is at play and minimize sensory meltdowns at the pool!
1. Begin with One-on-One Lessons
A crowded pool with lots of splashing swimmers is annoying for anyone, but especially challenging for a child with SPD. In order to avoid stressful triggers in the water, it’s best to begin swimming lessons in a private setting. This helps the instructor identify triggers and figure out appropriate goals. Tactile defensiveness and water play require planning and care to happen in harmony.
2. Control the Temperature of the Pool
Jumping into a cold pool may be a huge issue for kids with SPD. Water sensitivity and processing disorders often occur together. Naturally, this means children with sensory problems may respond strongly to extreme water temperature. Make sure the swimming pool is heated to lukewarm conditions to increase the chances of a successful swim.
3. Use the Right Accessories
Every child with SPD will have unique needs. Some children may be triggered by the feel of the pool against the bottom of their feet, while other swimmers respond strongly to the scent of chlorine. Swimming and sensory processing disorders exist more harmoniously when the swimmer has the right accessories and equipment. Goggles, rash guards, nose plugs and even socks can help dull the senses and lead to a more fun swimming experience.
Everyone is around swimming pools and natural bodies of water from time to time. Don’t keep your child with SPD out of the water when learning to swim is an essential skill! With these tips, kids with processing disorders can thrive in the deep end.