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What the Water Can Mean to a Child

The warm water environment is a place of freedom, independence, and
stimulation for a child with limitations. It is an equalizer of sorts. Pediatric aquatic
therapy is a growing field. Physical therapists (‘physios’ in certain countries),
occupational therapists, recreation therapists and speech therapists may choose
to work with your child or teen in the water. WaterWayBabies is not a
replacement for these therapeutic interventions. It is solely an adjunct to
traditional modalities, and a way for you, the parent, to enhance your child or
teen’s movements, strength, and abilities through water. Additionally, you may
find that the therapist uses the WWB neck ring to allow better manipulation of
limbs by freeing the therapist’s hands from weight-bearing or head holding.

WaterWayBabies used at home is specifically intended to be a pleasurable
activity for both child and parent. It consists of placing the inflated floatation
device around the child’s neck before placing said child in a small pool-like tub of
therapeutically warm water (92-93*F or 33.33-33.88*C) at home. Teens and
older kids, of course, will likely use the neck ring in a swimming pool or hot tub.
Time spent in the water may be as little as 5 minutes at first as a baby or toddler
gets comfortable in the water…. and can progress to 45 minutes to an hour (per
day) as tolerated. If the child cries vigorously, the session is over until the next
time. Therapy is usually not fun…so it is highly important to keep this water
experience enjoyable.

Within days if not hours, the infant or young child will begin to unfurl knotted
fists, swinging her/his arms back and forth in the water. Kicking soon progresses
to paddling one’s way across the pool or tub while pushing off the sides. As the
child seemingly instinctively learns to rotate, the turning and twisting while using
the neck ring will significantly increase her/his trunk strength and tone.

Few of my Waterway (put TM symbol here) babies or kids have complete
healing, but all of them have positive outcomes from swimming in their neck
rings. In addition to improved trunk strength and muscle tone, the most
profound impact is enhanced lung function. Water places gentle hydrostatic
pressure on the body, causing chest wall muscles to work harder to expand.
Over time and with enough exposure, this translates into stronger lungs. In
addition, these children, often nonverbal, begin to vocalize while swimming,
which usually carries over when not in the water. One child who swam 30-45
minutes daily for 6 months developed a cough/gag reflex when she previously
had none. Pulmonary infections are the leading cause of death (and re-
hospitalizations) for children of special needs, making lung health of paramount

Improved sleep patterns, decreased constipation, and visual stimulation (for
strabysmus or CVI) are a few of the other noted benefits. But just as important
as the physical aspects, is the profound psychosocial component that comes when a dependent person becomes independent in the water, moving her legs
or arms herself, relieved from the negative effects of gravity. Being supported in
an upright position uniquely and positively alters both the child or teen’s and the
parents’ (and siblings’) perspective from the reclined position where special
needs persons spend much of their lives. There is quite frankly not much that
can compare with witnessing spontaneous movement and a smiling face, full of

See for yourself –  friend me on Facebook – Nancy
Higgs/Waterwaybabies. You can also view several parent videos on youtube by
searching Waterwaybabies or Waterway babies. Thank you!

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