Monday, May 11, 2009

The Water Baby

6-month old water babyThe first time I took Matthew in the pool, I immediately knew he had the water gene, just as Bill and I do. It was at a swim class called 'Creative Movement Swim' at the YMCA. Matthew was 6 months old. The other kids screaming or laughing in and around the (indoor) pool did not bother him at all. The sensation of the water around his body didn't bother him either, but I wasn't surprised by that because he loved bath time. He was quite at home in the pool.

We took a break from the class in the winter and the beginning of spring but now we're back in it. Before you get visions of Matthew swimming laps with the butterfly stroke or learning to swim underwater, let me tell you it's not THAT kind of swim class. The class focuses on fun activities for babies and kids (6 weeks to 6 years old) who have developmental disabilities. Not only is it aqua therapy or hydrotherapy, but it's a fun playgroup in the pool.

The Activities
water basketballWith the goal of building coordination, balance, flexibility, strength, muscle control, spatial awareness and focus, we sing songs, play ball, and simply move around in the water. Sometimes the class instructor has everyone in the class move in a circle, with parents helping their kids use their arms to doggy-paddle. Matthew is learning to scissor kick while holding on to the kick board. Noodle floats also provide lots of entertainment when the kids ride them as if they were seahorses. Then of course, there's water basketball where we take turns dunking the ball. These are just a few of the activities that we do in this 45-minute class.

It's one of the best things we've done for Matthew's development.
kicking and swimmingWhen he was 6 months old, he could hold his head up but was far from being mobile. Being in the water allowed him to move his arms and legs with less effort. He was so excited that he kicked and kicked, like little frog on caffeine. He would belly swim on land too but he couldn't get himself to move forward. But in the water, his kicking was rewarded with moving forward as I held him under his arms and trolled him through the water every time he kicked. Now, 19 months old, we're focusing on more controlled kicking and using the arms more in the water.

underwater shotFor our purposes, the class provides early intervention to counteract his low muscle tone, also known as hypotonia, which is common in people with Down syndrome. In a blog post at Down Syndrome New Mama titled "Got Tone?" , Ds. Mama wrote: "Think of it as waking up sleeping muscles and then helping to pave the communication highway between the brain and the muscles." With practically every muscle in the body working when swimming, it's a great way to increase stimulation to the brain and nervous system. The water allows more freedom of movement and provides gentle, even resistance for Matthew to develop better muscle control, strength, coordination, and sense of balance.

How much has this helped Matthew?
To be honest, I have no way of telling exactly how much this swim class has helped his overall development. I do know that by giving him more learning opportunities through a wide variety of activities, I am contributing to his development in some way. More importantly, Matthew enjoys the water. That's what really matters.

Bill and Matthew


Adrienne said...

He's a cutie! Looks like it was great way to work on his overall movement and like you said, he had fun!!

Monica said...

He is such a cutie!!! I think swimming is a great gift we can give our kids, it is an exercise they can do their whole lives. Have you seen or heard about Karen Gaffeny??? I found her website when Adam was a baby, and knew we wanted to get Adam in swimming from then on. Last year I got the chance to hear her speak, she is truly one of my hero's, a very amazing woman!!! And it looks like you might also have a little fish on your hands :)

Beverly said...

He is so sweet! Swimming is great for our kids! Noah loves the water. Thanks for visiting my blog and I look forward to learning more about your sweet family!

Lori said...

Oh, I wish we had a program like that close to our home! I am certain Anna would love it as she loves her bath, and the pool the 2X we have been to one with her since she has been old enough. I guess we will just have to wait for warmer weather!
Thanks for adding my blog to your list!

Austyn said...

These are great photos! All three of you look like you are having so much fun. I'm enjoying reading about Matthew's development and daily activities. Though I'm sure it's immensely frustrating for you, I smile every time I think about him signing that he's done before he's even starting eating, in effort to win the "food battle" from a post I read last week. Too funny!

The Cooking Ninja said...

He is just too cute. I can see that he really loves water and swimming. He's a precious little guy.

Sharon said...

He's adorable! And this post gave me the motivation I needed to finally get my little guy into the pool.

Jill said...

omgosh what a cutie-pie

alisha said...

He looks adorable! i believe that Swimming classes should be something that a person takes up when young. Kids enjoy it most of the time anyway!

To Love Endlessly said...

oh geez! he's adorable! I love all the pictures. I love the one where he's smiling at his Daddy, so sweet. :-)