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Children with cerebral palsy can benefit from aquatic therapy in several ways, including developing greater muscle control and strength and improving self-confidence. Aqua therapy is physical therapy that takes place in a pool. Working in the water adds buoyancy and takes stress and pressure off the body and joints.
What Is Aqua Therapy?
Aqua therapy, also known as aquatic therapy, is a sequence of water-based exercises that help improve a person’s physical abilities and functions. It has been approved by the medical community as a way to help heal the body. Aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for children with cerebral palsy since it allows them to move freely without putting stress or much weight on their bodies. Water is known to reduce weight by 90%.
Aquatic therapists generally have several goals when working with children with cerebral palsy, including helping kids to:
- Develop more muscle control
- Increase self-confidence
- Improve strength and physical function
- Gain more life independence
What Are the Benefits of Aqua Therapy?
Aqua therapy offers many physical and mental benefits to children with cerebral palsy. Physical benefits include:
- Improving heart function
- Increasing resistance
- Relieving and reducing pain in the joints and muscle
- Helps to protect against injuries while exercising
- Reduces discomfort while exercising
- Helps build muscle and muscle control
- Help build better circulation
- Improve endurance and flexibility
Mental and emotional benefits include:
- Improved confidence
- Better quality of life
- Strengthened socialization skills
- Improved sensory integration
- Improved sense of independence
Types of Aqua Therapy Exercises
There are many different types of aqua therapy programs and exercises. The ones best suited for your child will depend on the severity of the child’s disorder, age, physical fitness level, and any associated illnesses or disorders.
In general, the popular forms of aqua therapy exercises include:
- Swimming (at all levels, including learning to swim)
- Aquatic yoga
- Water-based range of motion exercises
- Balance exercises via flotation devices in deep water
- Breath control exercises
- Assisted walking exercises
- Deepwater walk walking
- Social games to help improve social interaction, eye contact, and sportsmanship
Equipment used during a typical aqua therapy session may include:
- Flotation devices
- Compression vests
Pools Used For Aquatic Therapy
Safety should be of primary importance for therapists and other professionals who help children with cerebral palsy. In turn, the majority of pools are generally smaller than standard size pools and come with:
- Fiberglass or stainless steel shells
- Built-in attached equipment
- Safety rails and ladders
- Thermostat to warm water
- Easy-to-grip edges
Who Provides Aqua Therapy? How Long Are Sessions?
Most physical and occupational therapists trained in aquatic therapy provide services to children with cerebral palsy. Generally, these medical professionals need to be qualified to work with children with special needs and have an active AEA Aquatic Fitness Professional Certification (AFPC).
Session times will vary depending on the child’s individual needs but often range between 30 to 45 minutes. To participate in aquatic therapy, children will need to bring swimsuits, towels, and water shoes to each session. Some classes may provide these items depending on the program and the family’s financial status.
- Aquatic Exercise Programs for Children and Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go? (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228376/