I was honoured to do a training day with 18 swimming teachers and volunteers at Kew Recreation Centre on 28th January 2015.
They have a program where swimming teachers and volunteers work one- on- one with children and teenagers with specific learning needs in the water.
We did sessions covering:
diability and participation
what is meant by: autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders
how we learn skills
how we process sensory information, and how that affects our ability to participate in a busy environment like a pool, as well as how we learn
being in tune with the different ways our learners communicate with us
the different ways we can communicate with our learners to help them understand what we are asking, and also to give them choice and a sense of safety in our sessions
an approach to planning our sessions, setting goals, seeing how we went and coming up with plans for next time.
We had a look at videos from one of their sessions and brainstormed ideas we could try in the water the next time we work with these learners.
Four of the group's swimmers were very generous in their time and came along to have a session with us. It was great to get in the water together and facilitate the swimming teachers and volunteers in applying their new knowledge, ideas and self- reflection skills.
We finished up with a debrief back in the classroom. We evaluated how we went in that session, and came up with plans to try next time.
I also got the participants to do a quiz at the beginning and end of the day. Their average score at the beginning was 52% and 87% at the end, with many participants achieving perfect scores.
They were also very generous in their feedback:
In the comments, they said the best thing today was:
learning and discovering new ideas about what activities I could do with (name of one of the children who participated)
gathering ideas around table and learning together
working in the pool and having goals to work towards
reinforcing my own ideas of how to teach children with specific learning needs, giving me confidence that I was on the right track
ideas and suggestions for class preparation and planning
getting great new ideas on how to improve communication skills and help students learn
being able to learn by watching you in the pool session
discussing the different ways the students communicate with us
the pool session and problem solving
your lovely teaching style
your insightful messages
getting into the pool and spending time with the kids
working with (name of child participating) and implementing ideas we had learned in the classroom
learning new technqiues. Learning ways we can communicate with the children.
facilitating learning from the group
They also said something they would change about how they work with learners is:
adding in more fun activities to better engage the children
reduce the number of goals I am working on at one time
understand how the children learn and helps them to be more calm and happy in the water
I will find out what learners like and are comfortable with, before I attempt to teach them new skills
being patient and allowing the individual to have more control and choice, rather than me being controlling as the teacher
be more attentive to how learners communicate with me, in particular with the non- verbal communication. Talk with parents to get help on their child's learning needs and what works.
using more simple language
the way I communicate with children
using positive language to help children understand more clearly eg "walking" rather than "no running"
I now have more confidence in working with the children
using shorter sentences
Participants could opt in to recive an email with their test results. A full report with all feedback comments, and the group's average scores, was provided to management at the centre.
I appreciate the enthusiasm, attention and focus the participants all had today. It was a pleasure working with them all.
Information about professional development and consulting services are available here. I love to work with swimming teachers. They already have such a rich knowledge base. Adding to it allows them to work even more effectively with swimmers with specific learning needs, and that's a wonderful thing to see :-)