What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological and biological developmental disability which occurs within the first three years of life. Developmental and speech delays occur around this time frame as well. Cases of autism can range from the spectrums of mild to extreme, affecting social and communication development. Some of the most common early signs of autism are: *No facial expressions or smiling by six months. *No response to name by 12 months. *No babbling or baby talk after 12 months. *No words spoken by 16 months. *No two-word sentences by 24 months. Other signs and symptoms can occur for those with autism. Difficulty in making friends, initiating pretend play, speaking in abnormal voice tone, lack of eye contact, following a strict routine, and sensitivity to light and sound are just a few of many. Diagnosis can be done early, and be managed with therapy sessions once confirmed.
Hydrotherapy and Autism
Hydrotherapy helps ease autism in six different ways. A few of these ways help with sensory and social skills. Hydrotherapy also helps children learn about water safety. We will go into a little more detail below, starting with number one!
1.Hydrotherapy helps with sensory processing. Children with autism are easily distracted, and are sensitive with certain textures. Warm water calms children, and helps ease the senses of children during hydrotherapy. The hydrostatic pressure forms during therapy, and surrounds the body in water, making touch more tolerable.
2. The Physical Benefits Autistic children gain skills with swimming, balance, and strength during hydrotherapy. They also improve their posture and fine motor skills. With the reduction of body weight in water, there’s less stress and a decrease in impact during therapy exercises.
3. Assistance with Social Skills Hydrotherapy can be done alone or with small groups. Autistic children often gain social interaction while in small groups, and learn to share and get along with others while in water. Hydrotherapy use increases self-confidence, and children make more eye contact, helping them focus with verbal commands. Children develop positive attitudes, higher self-esteem, and higher engagement with interpersonal relations with hydrotherapy.
4. Cognitive Learning
Children improve range of motion, neurodevelopmental growth, and body awareness with hydrotherapy. Their attention span increases, along with impulse control, concentration and focus, and the ability to follow directions.
5. Task Completion Autistic children respond better with visual cues and tangible rewards than with verbal cues. These children also tend to be better visual learners outside of hydrotherapy better than verbal.
6. Water Safety During hydrotherapy, children have a better understanding of water safety, but still require a significant amount of supervision as they still lack verbal responses. These children become familiar with water, gain skills with swimming, and understand the safety hazards.
Additional Information about Hydrotherapy for Children
While hydrotherapy works for adults and children alike, certain measures are taken into consideration for children for a successful therapy session. Children require a lower water temperature for hydrotherapy to avoid scalding and burns. The safe water temp for hydrotherapy in children is 90 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, hydrotherapy times are different from adults due to size and age. Children are in the water for 10 minutes times their age. For example, a five year old will use hydrotherapy for 50 minutes for a successful session. There are three key factors in hydrotherapy, and they are heat, buoyancy, and massage. The heat of the water helps relax the child before therapy begins. The buoyancy of the water reduces body weight, allowing less pressure on the body during movements and exercises. The massaging feature is created by a mixture of water and air through water jets. The water jets help relax muscles, massage the body, and allow ease of sensory processing in children. With all the benefits of hydrotherapy for autistic children, therapy is most easily done at home. At first thought, purchasing a hot tub could get pricey once you consider the cost, placement preparation, electrical installation, chemical purchases, and maintenance. There is one style of a hot tub that is easy to install, eco-friendly, and budget-friendly, too. It’s called Softub and with lower purchase cost, the least amount of maintenance in the industry and truly the most portability and comfort…it just can’t be beat!