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  • Writer's pictureShayna Gavin, Splash Principal Physiotherapist

Swimmers with specific learning needs training

Ongoing professional development at two inclusive swimming schools

We had a fantastic and very full day running our course on working with swimmers with specific learning needs on Sunday. Van Dyk's Swimming Academy (Greensborough) and Sydenham Street Swimming School (Moonee Ponds) are inclusive swimming schools, and are committed to all of their staff becoming accredited with the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Assocation's (ASCTA) "Learners with a disability" qualification, which is an advanced swimming teacher's course.

Fourteen staff completed our course on Sunday. Once they complete their lesson plans, distance study and supervised hours of practise, they will be accredited.

I am involved in the ongoing training and professional development of the staff at both pools. We are pleased that now more than 75% staff at hold this qualification.

Our key messages from the day are:

  • we teach the way each individual child learns

  • we use a playful approach to engage children in learning to swim

  • we support our swimmers and their whole families to learn swim safer skills and behaviours

  • we are eager to support our swimmers' individual learning needs, including but not limited to: sensory processing, communication, physical abilities

  • we have many ways of communicating with children and facilitating their communication with us

  • we love to develop goals and strategies with our swimmers and their families to meet their learning needs

  • we are always thinking about: what is the goal of this activity? what is going well? what are the challenges? what can we try next?

What we got up to!

We started with learning by discussion, lecture and group activities during the morning. After lunch we jumped in the pool.

Here we are looking at how the biomechanics of swimming change with different bodies eg. with a limb deficiency, or a strength imbalance after a stroke.

We looked at safely facilitating people to become confident and independent moving around the pool environment and participating in sessions when they have sensory impairments or processing challenges.

A million thanks to the families who came in for a swim with us! Many participants found this to be the best part of the day, where they were able to put their knowledge into practise. Your children were fantastic teachers, we appreciate your efforts, and we delighted in them achieving their goals of the day!

Here we are debriefing after our sessions with the swimmers. What were our goals of the day? What went well? What were the challenges? What strategies did we try? What will we try next?

Here's the feedback from the participants on the course:

We also did a knowledge based written test at the beginning and end of the day to aid learning, and to give us some stats to see how well we learned and taught! The results were amazing, with fantastic efforts from all involved.

We will be running this course annually so that new staff to the swimming schools can be accredited in this advanced qualification.

Shayna Gavin is a physiotherapist who is passionate about helping babies, children and young people learn functional skills so they can participate in life at home, school and in their community. Recognising that children do best in their own environments, she visits homes, schools, and leisure activities from football fields to ballet classes. She also has daily aquatic physiotherapy sessions available at two private swimming schools in Moonee Ponds and Greensborough, Melbourne. She combines principles of paediatric physiotherapy, Neuro Developmental Treatment / Bobath, motor learning, Sensory Integration and swimming teaching to address the individual needs of each child and their family. She loves providing professional development to physiotherapists, allied health and education professionals, allied health assistants and swimming teachers.

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