HYDROTHERAPY for children withAutism Spectrum Disorder
Hydrotherapy can provide benefits for children with different challenges and goals.
The key benefits of hydrotherapy for children with ASD include:
1) Working with other people. Spending time working with the therapist, and sometimes other children can improve social behaviours in children with Autism. Adding hydrotherapy sessions to a child’s routine creates a structured approach to forming bonds with others. It allows them to continue learning social skills, whilst in a relaxed environment and state.
2) Impressive sensory benefits. Many children with ASD on the autistic spectrum also have sensory processing disorders. This often means they experience sensory overload and feel overstimulated by their environment. Hydrotherapy can help to calm and soothe children in three key ways:
Hydrostatic Pressure– water offers heavy/deep pressure which children with sensory impairments typically enjoy. The water surrounds the child’s entire body, allowing them to concentrate, relax and have the confidence to move around and try new movements. This is very similar to the idea that a weighted blanket can help people with anxiety. Feeling pressure on the body is very soothing.
Vestibular Stimulation – The vestibular system controls balance. Hydrotherapy has shown to improve balance due to the pressure of the water on the body. This can be highly beneficial for children with ASD. Many children show repetitive behaviours, like rocking, which can be distracting in lessons and potentially dangerous. These behaviours are thought to be linked to an underdeveloped vestibular system. Being able to change positions in the water can stimulate the vestibular system, improving balance and sensory input over time. Outside the pool, this can help reduce repetitive behaviours and prevent issues like dizziness.
Proprioceptive Feedback – Often referred to as our sixth sense, proprioceptive feedback is how a person understands where they are in a certain space. This is another ability that can be underdeveloped in children with Autism. Not having this feedback can make movements clumsy or jerky. In the water, there is resistance when the child moves. This gives enhanced feedback about where their body is and boosts body awareness, whilst improving their tolerance to touch. Over time, this can help make their body movements more fluid and controlled.