Pediatric aquatic therapy (water therapy) is an adjunct therapy intervention used by physical, occupational, and speech therapists in the aquatic setting to achieve functional outcomes. For instance, a physical therapist may use the drag quality of the water to provide resistance to your child walking in an effort to increase strength or the buoyancy quality of water to help assist with standing. An occupational therapist may use the unique session of water to work on sensory integration or the motivation of diving for rings to improve fine motor skills. A speech therapist may use the water to help with oral motor skills through activities like blowing bubbles to improve strength or motor planning and the motivation of water play to learn words during speech activities. Though aquatic therapy can be recreational and educate a child on water safety skills and increase fitness levels, its main purpose is to be therapeutic and use the water as a medium to change the pathology of the child.
The benefits of aquatic therapy include increasing range of motion and joint flexibility, improves head/trunk control, decreases pain, increases coordination and spatial awareness, promotes relaxation, allows freedom of movement in patients with mobility limitations, and improves cardiopulmonary fitness. Children with impairments such as abnormal muscle tone, poor postural control or symmetry, impaired coordination and balance, poor oral motor function, and impaired speech and language would benefit from aquatic therapy. For further information on LIFE’s aquatic program and its appropriateness for your child, please speak to your therapist.