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Has your child struggled in group community swimming lessons? 

Or are you unsure they would cope? 

They might need a bit more support to get started. Then we can look at helping you transition into a community based setting.

PLEASE NOTE: This is just one option. See our 'pathways to swimming' page for more information about the different ways we can support children and young people to swim


Who can benefit from the Kick Start Swimming Program?


The Kick Start program is developed to help children with specific learning needs, autism, communication difficulties and sensory difficulties enjoy success in learning to swim.


For children who have struggled with coordination and strength in attempting to learn to swim, one- on- one aquatic physiotherapy is more appropriate. This allows us to assess your child's movement and step through a physiotherapy treatment program with them.


How was the Kick Start Swimming Program developed? 


The Kick Start Program was developed by the Sunbury Community Health Centre as a health promotion initiative. The multi- disciplinary team there noticed that children in their local community, who had specific learning needs, were often struggling with conventional swimming lessons. The team found they could greatly improve children’s enjoyment and success in learning to swim by:

  • adding specific teaching and communication strategies

  • addressing behavioural issues

  • using an understanding of autism, sensory processing difficulties and specific learning needs.


Who runs the Kick Start Swimming Program at Splash Physiotherapy?


Shayna Gavin, physiotherapist, was trained by the Kick Start team, including a swimming instructor, speech pathologist and early childhood teacher. She also has a strong background in teaching swimming and transdiscipinary early childhood intervention. She is passionate about combining these skills to help children learn a love of water. 


What does the Kick Start Swimming Program involve? 


  • Splash Physiotherapy runs the Kick Start Swimming Program over 8 weeks. 

  • The first session is a parent interview. This is essential to gain an understanding of your child’s likes, dislikes, strengths and needs. It will help us to plan an individualised approach to give your child the best opportunities for learning possible. We also complete a health screening check for your child and all carers who will participate in sessions. This is to ensure we are able to monitor and plan for any health needs. 

  • Each family can borrow a social story about going to the swimming pool to help children become familiar with this new and exciting activity!

  • We use picture schedule cards during each session to help children understand activities and expectations. 

  • Parent information forms are provided for each family upon enrolment. 

  • We use a flexible learning environment with climbing frames, underwater platforms, slides and floating mats.

  • We individualise our programs to progress with your child’s needs.

  • And the most important thing: an emphasis on fun!


What does a typical session include? 


A typical session is difficult to describe, just as it is difficult to describe a typical child!

Some time would be spent on each of the following areas, depending on each child’s learning needs:

  • water familiarisation eg. becoming comfortable with the pool environment, buoyancy

  • breath control eg. splashing water on the face, blowing bubbles, turning the head to breathe, depending on skill level

  • mobility eg. moving around the water in a ring, walking on an underwater platform, climbing semi- submerged climbing frames, progressing to each of the swimming strokes

  • water safety eg. waiting for your turn to get into the water safely, floating, moving to the edge of the pool

  • group time eg. songs, taking turns jumping in or ‘surfing’ on a large floating mat


How many children are in each session? 


Splash Physiotherapy limit Kick Start Swimming sessions to four children only. We feel this is vital to optimise your children’s opportunity to learn. 


We need a minimum of 2 children enrolled to run a group. Many children need one- on- one attention, and are better suited to individualised sessions with our physiotherapists.

When we don't have a group available for you to join, we can offer individualised sessions. 


Do I need to get in the water with my child? 


Yes! Each child needs to attend each session with an adult caregiver. Carers do not need to be able to swim, but should be confident to move around the pool carrying their child, get up if they fall over in the water, and ideally should be confident to bob underwater and blow bubbles. 


It’s great for you to be involved in these sessions, to: help us understand your child’s needs; discover strategies to assist your child’s development; to model participation in water activities for your child; and to enjoy your child developing a love of water!


This is in contrast to one- on- one aquatic physiotherapy sessions where you do not need to get into the water every time. If your child is struggling with separation anxiety we prefer you to join us in the water so we can have a fun play time. We also encourage parents to get in for some sessions each term so you can enjoy your child developing a love of water, and so you can practise things to do together at your local pool.


What do I need to bring?

  • bathers, a towel, thongs and a drink bottle

  • any medications for you and your child (eg. asthma or angina medications, or your glucometer, glucose (eg. jelly beans) and a snack (eg. sandwich) if you need to manage your diabetes)

  • any updates about your/ your child’s health or any conditions

  • a sense of fun and optimism!


What do I wear? 


Adults should wear bathers. You may wear clean clothing over the top if required.


What should my child wear in the pool? (click for more detail)


Children should wear bathers. UV protection suits may be worn but please be aware that the chlorine in the pools does affect the material, and a standard swimming suit may be preferable. 


We encourage families to toilet their children before and after each session, and monitor their needs while in the water. 

If your child is not yet toilet trained, bathers must fit snugly around the child’s thighs and tummy are appropriate. "Swimming nappy bathers" are marvellous. Disposable swimming nappies may be worn if they are a very good fit, and if they are appropriately disposed of at the end of the session.


Is there an option for female - only sessions? 


Splash Physiotherapy are open to providing sessions for women and children only. We would need to have a minimum of 3 children enrolled for this to be possible. 

Due to the nature of the swimming pools we use, this is only possible at the Moonee Ponds pool.


What about community based swimming lessons? 


Splash Physiotherapy is very keen to offer support to families in transitioning to community based swimming lessons from aquatic physiotherapy or the Kick Start Swimming Program.   

See Pathways to Swimming to see the flexible options we have available




Talk to us about enrolling on 0413 026 200 (school days 9am - 5pm), or email us any time

The Kickstart Swimming Program

For children with specific learning needs

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