Most school-based physical and occupational therapy takes place on land. However, therapy is also provided using water as a modality to assist children with achieving their functional goals. Since being in the water reduces the effect of gravity, it often allows children to move and strengthen muscles that they have not previously been able to use effectively. Plus, many children consider pools a fun environment, making the potential for progress even greater.
The depth adjustable pool allows our students who use wheelchairs or who require maximal assistance for transfers to get into the pool, once the pool floor is set at 0 feet, because they can be pushed into the pool using a shower or bath chair, which can go into the water. Once the floor is raised up, the student is then transferred out of the chair. The depth adjustability also allows therapists to be able to set the floor at the exact height for students of all sizes to be able to walk or practice walking.
Aquatic therapy combines the benefits of occupational therapy and physical therapy with the advantages of gravity reduced exercise in a warm-water environment. In the water, many students are able to freely move in a way they are not able to on land. Body weight can be reduced by up to 90 percent in the water allowing the student more freedom of movement and improved muscle relaxation. As a result of the buoyancy and support provided by the water, functional training can often be initiated sooner than it would be on land. Aquatic therapy is also used as a tool for some occupational therapists to establish and maintain rapport with students, encourage engagement and dyadic interaction, and use the pool water and air temperature and acoustic environment for sensory modulation. The water can also be used to provide variable resistance for therapeutic exercises.
BENEFITS OF AQUATIC THERAPY
- Improved cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal effects due to the body’s response to immersion
- Improved range of motion, muscle tone, and strength
- Improved awareness of body movements, balance, and coordination
- Decreased muscle stiffness, spasms, and guarding
- Increased body awareness, attention span, and sensory motor integration
- Because of the calming and proprioceptive effects of water, this environment encourages risk taking and experimentation required for the learning and practice of functional skills
- Carryover of learned functional skills in multiple environments
- The floor is depth adjustable from 6 feet to flush with the deck (0 feet)
- The water temperature has a set point of 93 degrees, with a fluctuation of 1 - 2 degrees either way.
- The air temperature’s set point range is 92 to 95 degrees with a 1 degree fluctuation either way.
- The relative humidity range is 55% to 65%.