The pool has never been my daughter Elsa's happy place. The glare of the sun, the shock of the cold water, the numerous sunscreen-in-the-eye mishaps… In an environment where most kids find endless fun, Elsa simply hasn't been able to get comfortable.
Therapy pool classes have always been a positive experience for Elsa. Who wouldn’t love swimming with a one-on-one buddy in a quiet 90 degree pool? But this has never translated into outdoor swimming success... until this year.
In January 2018, Elsa joined a pool group at a nearby rehab hospital with the goal of giving us ways to cope with and enjoy the pool. At the beginning of the class, Elsa was tolerant, but nervous. Her floatation ring, designed to keep her head afloat, was worrisome to her, and she was hesitant to walk across the pool deck.
Fast forward seven months, and things are much different. Much improved. Great even! Elsa's therapist armed us with a series of measures to increase her comfort. Here’s what we tried, and where we are now...
Elsa's Swim Success
1. Socks. Walking across a cold, wet, grainy textured pool deck was really hard for Elsa at first. Her therapist recommended socks, which not only gives her sensory input but also eases some of the sensory challenges of foot-to-deck contact. Now when we enter the pool, we're starting off in a positive, grounded place...
2. Floatation Ring. Elsa wasn't totally comfortable with it at first, but now her floatation ring is a safe accessory for her. (Here's the one we bought for home use.) The ring clasps behind Elsa's head, and a little chin rest keeps her face up and dry. Note: This is NOT the kind of device you can put a child or adult in and float away. It requires constant supervision. But unlike a life vest, with the ring Elsa can float independently. (In this pic, we're experimenting with a little extra buoyancy, using some velcroed pool noodles.)
3. Puddlejumpers. I never, ever imagined that Elsa would be able to use Puddlejumpers, but once she mastered the floatation ring, the next step was wearing what her sisters wear. Seeing Elsa in a Puddlejumper has enabled me to view her potential in the water in a new sky's-the-limit way. She loves being able to lean back and float. It requires complete hands-on assistance, but she's figuring it out, and loving it.
4. Blowing Bubbles. Safe swimming requires blowing bubbles, to keep water out. To increase Elsa's comfort with putting her face in the water, and giving bubbles a go, her therapist puts a mask in the water and encourages Elsa to look down into it...
Once she felt safe doing that, her therapist worked with her on getting her face down and humming into the water. Now she is blowing bubbles! I'm telling you, I cannot believe it. Is this video not the coolest?
In addition to these things, we also have a half dozen moves that we can do in the pool with Elsa - ways to handle her and swim with her to give her sensory input (jumping, rocking, singing, swaying). So, we're in a great place! We've enjoyed the pool all summer without incident and, truly, with joy.
A special treat: Click HERE to watch the WHS Summer Slideshow, a video of 25 kiddos with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome enjoying the season (including Elsa). You'll love it!
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