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Swimming Lessons For Children With Hearing Impairment

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

Swimming lessons in school are a fabulous activity for almost all children. However, if you have a hearing-impaired student, there are a few considerations from a teaching point of view. This article explores the dos and don'ts.

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    Why Make Swimming Lessons Part of Physical Education?

    Swimming lessons are an integral part of the physical education curriculum in both mainstream and specialist education settings. Children benefit from learning to swim in terms of:

    • Skill development - the ability to perform a range of swimming strokes and movements.
    • Water safety - an awareness of water safety is paramount for everyone who comes into contact with water at home, at the beach, on holidays or at school.
    • Physical fitness - building of strength, endurance, tone, flexibility and movement control.
    • Confidence - the ability to swim capably brings with it a good measure of personal confidence.
    • Independence - particularly for children with disabilities, swimming means independent movement control in the water and the ability to make choices about where and how to move.

    Swimming has significant benefits across a range of measurable and reportable areas of teaching and learning.

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    Considerations For Children With Hearing Loss

    Children who have a hearing issue need to be considered carefully from both a safety and an instructional point of view.

    Safety - Ensure you have a planned and rehearsed signal for gaining the attention of the child, asking him to move to a specific place, or starting or stopping an activity. Also, be certain you have a planned emergency signal and that the child understands what to do if he observes the signal.

    Instruction - Work out how you are going to communicate with the child. You may sign to them, use keyword signing (simply learn the signs for a few simple words such as stop, go, look, bubble, fast, slow, up, down, etc), use gestures, assign a buddy, use a waterproof notepad on the pool deck where you can write and draw pictures, or use a combination of methods.

    Communication - Obviously visual cues are vital for a child with a hearing loss who is participating in swimming lessons in school as part of physical education. Ensure that any other teachers who work with the child know he does not hear, and that you use a common instructional method to gain consistency.

    Note - An important consideration is whether there are other safety issues for the child, such as being allowed to get water into their ears in the case of children who have grommets (tubes) inserted. These children can generally swim with permission from their doctor, but may need to prevent water from getting into their ears.

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