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  • Shayna Gavin, Splash Principal Physiotherapist

"There's many ways to swim" a lecture on participation for the APA

I had a great time presenting for the Australian Physiotherapy Association yesterday on the many ways to facilitate participation in swimming across the lifespan.


This was one of a 5 part series of lectures being put together on exercise and participation by the Disability group. I believe lectures on bike riding and race running are coming up!


Image description: Shayna presenting the webinar over zoom. She smiles at the camera, has her hair down for a change, wears a bright blue jumper, and sits infront of a painting of poppies




I spoke about:

  • what participation in swimming can look like across the life span

  • context for swimming, including models of participation (such as the ICF), environments and funding structures

  • ways to reduce the risk associated with swimming and water based activities

  • a refresher on the physics of properties of the water, and how important understanding this is not just for movement and exercise in water, but also for how our bodies respond (known as the physiology of immersion)

  • an introduction to the groups of skills used in learning to move and swim in water


Image description: babies together in the pool; a pre school level class in the pool; a primary school aged child floating; a young adult playing water polo, an older adult wading in water to fish


This is one of the slides on dignity of risk:



Image description: slide titled "first do no harm: dignity of risk". Shayna is pictured presenting in the top right.

The slide contains an every day language version of the dignity of risk definition "“…when you’re responsible for the wellbeing of another person, how do you meet your duty of care while still allowing them the freedom to take reasonable risks – a freedom that’s essential to their dignity and independence?”


Then we looked at videos of Disabled children and adults swimming in a variety of ways, with a range of supports. From a young boy driving himself in to the pool area in his wheelchair and then showing off his swimming skills, to adults swimming for leisure and exercise, and then some Paralympics races.


We finished with all the ways physios can learn more, including ideas like:

  • working with an organisation who lives and breathes this dedication to participation everyday (like us at Splash!)

  • the APA aquatic level 1, 2 and 3 courses which are world renowned as being the highest level of qualification in aquatic physio that can be achieved

  • online resources such as the APA guidelines for aquatic physiotherapists

  • membership with the Aquatic special group of the APA for ongoing professional development and courses

  • swim teacher training

I hope this inspires more physios to upskill in aquatic physiotherapy and work towards participation goals for swimmers of all ages. It's an excellent area to work in, great fun, and so valuable not just for developing swim safer skills but also to support progress towards land based goals.


This is the acknowledgements slide from the lecture, thanking: the wonderful Splash families we work with; our excellent Splash physio team (pictured); the swim schools we work with, the aquatic & disability groups of the APA; my aquatics, paediatrics and disability colleagues, mentors and teachers; and Louise for convening the lecture series.

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, Contemporary Neuro Developmental Treatment, motor learning, 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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