Beginner swimming course for mentally retarded children

Dr.Hab., Professor E.A. Raspopova1
Associate Professor O.G. Rysakova2
Master N.V. Popovich3
1Russian State University of Physical Education, Sports, Youth and Tourism (SCOLIPE), Moscow
2Russian State Social University, Moscow
3Moscow City Pedagogical University, Moscow

Keywords: beginner swimming practices, individualized approach, children with mental retardations.

Background. As reported by the WHO, mentally retarded people comprise about 10% of the global population nowadays and, hence, high priority shall be given to the health projects for mentally retarded children. Presently 20 of 10 thousand children are diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders and other mental retardations [2] in need of special adaptive physical education service to mitigate and correct the developmental deficiencies and secure their physical and mental progress on a harmonic basis [3]. It should be mentioned that many issues of special health services to mentally retarded children are still underexplored – in contrast to those for the children with CP and auditory/ visual system disorders.

Adaptive swimming service for handicapped children is ranked among the top priority national physical education and sport projects due to, among other things, its benefits for the water accident prevention plus the health benefits including the facilitated physical, mental and intellectual progress [3]. The adaptive swimming service was also proved to improve the emotional statuses of the children with health disorders by contributing to their self-confidence, socializing and teamwork skills [2]. Swimming practices are known to be beneficial for every health/ age group as they improve health standards, physical qualities, central nervous system and respiratory system functionality, postural controls and immunity to respiratory diseases. Smooth and rhythmic swimming movements are also known to facilitate blood circulation and metabolism, relax the spinal column, reduce the blood pressure and effectively condition the nervous system.

Adaptive swimming service for handicapped children is particularly important for the initiatives to correct the CNS functionality and the cognitive and emotional/ volitional disorders including the intellectual performance deficiencies with their socializing and communicative issues. The low self-controls typical for this health group often manifest themselves in the inability to predict and thought out and own current and future actions, memorize and report information, and this is the reason why the traditional training methods and technologies are non-applicable to this health group.

Objective of the study was to develop and test benefits of a beginner swimming course for the children with mental retardations.

Methods and structure of the study. Sampled for the study were the 7 year-olds (n=20) diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders split up into Experimental (EG) and Reference (RG) groups of 10 people each trained in a swimming pool 2 times a week for 3 months. The RG was trained as required by the standard training method, with every coach serving 2 children; and the EG was trained by the special training system, also with 2 children per coach, with coachers swimming with children [1] to directly assist them on individualized basis as the exemplary training is known to be highly efficient training model for this health group.

Results and discussion. The individualized coaching service was designed to cultivate trust and facilitate the training process with application of a wide range of equipment and accessories including swimming boards, lifebuoys, inflated sleeves, flippers, sausages, hand spatulas, mattresses, rafts, boats, water polo gates, large and small balls, sinking toys, floating islands, noodles etc. The coach would help control the body position in water, hold the arms and legs horizontally and efficiently master the breath-holding and head-down swimming skills. The beginner trainings are known to be the most efficient when designed to remove the natural fears of water and help master the breath-holding and head submersion basics – that are particularly important and challenging for many mentally retarded children. That is why the first water familiarization exercises shall be dominated by the onshore breath-holding practices followed by the water ones.

Thus the adaptive training model offers a variety of game-driven breath holding practices including the adult-assisted ‘Who holds the breath longer’ exercise with the nose clips, with the same exercise offered for home practices. Special water practices were intended to train the lungs and help the children adapt to the oxygen-deficient trainings. The water practices reproduced the onshore ‘Who holds the breath longer’ exercise with the trainee submerging the head together with the coach. To facilitate progress in the breath-holding skills, the coach would first pour and splash water to the trainee’s face – to activate the breath-holding instincts prior to the head-sinking practices for the safety reasons, otherwise some trainees may swallow water. The water pouring and splashing technique is designed to master the breath-holding on the coach’s command. It should be mentioned that a variety of modern hyperventilation training techniques are non-applicable to the mentally retarded children for they are mostly unable to control the respiration pace and depth.

With the first progress in the breath holding and control domain, the coach would make an emphasis on the horizontal body positioning in water to make it as instinctive/ automatic as possible – in view of the cognitive disorders typical for the handicapped children. The body control skills were developed by the relevant practices including the noodle chaining exercises with the trainees lying on the noodles required to submerge heads to make bubbles and mimic steamers by the footwork. The same exercise was to be practiced on the back with the head and knees supported by the noodles to make the children feel safe and fearless in the back positions.

Our adaptive training model is different from the traditional one [4] (that starts from submersion practices) by its focus on the beginner breath-holding and head submersion skills that are particularly challenging for the mentally retarded children. The special practices are geared to gradually familiarize the children with the unusual feels of weightlessness, buoyancy force and help them master the static swimming and body balancing/ control basics with the head up and down in water. The practices shall be reasonably long and regular to develop the swimming/ body control skills using a variety of noodles to keep up the child’s body on water. It should be mentioned that almost 100% of the mentally retarded children fail to keep on water on the back or submerge the head in water for the natural fears – and that is the reason why these practices shall be preceded by the static breath holding, water exhaling and prone swimming practices. The high trust in the coach developed by the prior practices would help the coach put the child on the back in water feeling safe in this position. As soon as the child shows progress in these practices, they may be complemented by submersion exercises. It should be noted that none of the mentally retarded children could keep under water prior to the new adaptive swimming model testing experiment, and it took time to develop the primary underwater breath-holding skills, with the breath held for at least 3-4 seconds. The training time required to master the water exhale, head submersion and back swimming basics varied in a wide range across the health groups due to the individual specifics: see Table 1 hereunder

Table 1. Average submersion basics mastering time required by the health groups, Х±σ

Test group

Breath holding

Prone lying

Back lying

EG (n=10)

5,2 ± 2,5

7,4 ± 3,3

8,2 ± 3,4

RG (n=10)

Failed

Failed

Failed

Healthy group (n=20)

2,0 ± 0,5

3,1 ± 1,2

3,1 ± 1,3

The healthy children were found to require 2 training sessions on average to master the submersion basics – versus the EG children who needed at least 2.5 longer trainings; with the prone lying exercise, for example, mastered twice as long as in the healthy group. The RG failed to master the basic skills for the model testing time and required 20-30 training sessions to reach the same level.

Conclusion. The new beginner swimming course testing experiment showed its great benefits, particularly expressed in the breath-holding practices combined with recumbent exercises to facilitate progress in the swimming skills; with the individualized coaching service found highly favorable for the children with mental retardations.

References

  1. Mosunova M.D. Obuchenie plavaniyu v usloviyakh sovmestnogo prebyvaniya v vode trenera i rebenka-invalida (na primere epilepsii) [Teaching swimming when coach and disabled child are in the water (case study of epilepsy)]. PhD diss. abstract. St. Petersburg, 2005. 24 p.
  2. Permyakov V.E. Ispolzovanie sredstv plavaniya v sisteme fizicheskoy i psikhicheskoy reabilitatsii detey 9-11 let s zaderzhkoy psikhicheskogo razvitiya [Swimming techniques use in physical and mental rehabilitation system for 9-11 year-olds with mental retardation]. PhD diss. abstract. Krasnodar, 2004. 18 p.
  3. Pogrebnoy A.I. Plavanie v sisteme fizicheskoy i psikhicheskoy reabilitatsii detey s defektami v razvitii [Swimming in physical and mental rehabilitation system for mentally retarded children]. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury. 2004. no. 8. pp. 55-58.
  4. Savelyeva O.Yu., Karpov V.Yu., Romanova A.V., Bakulina E.D. Issledovanie individualnoy predraspolozhennosti shkolnikov k osvoeniyu tekhniki plavaniya na etape osvoeniya s vodoy [Study of students' individual predisposition to mastering of swimming technique of at the stage of mastering with water]. Uchenye zapiski universiteta im. P.F. Lesgafta. 2016. # 4 (134). pp. 237-242.
  5. Ukaz Prezidenta RF ot 18-08-94 1696 «O prezidentskoy programme "Deti Rossii"» [RF Presidential Decree dated 18-08-94 1696 «On Presidential program "Children of Russia"»]. 

Corresponding author: raspopova48@mail.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to develop and test benefits of a beginner swimming course for the children with mental retardations. Sampled for the study were the 7 year-olds (n=20) diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders split up into Experimental (EG) and Reference (RG) groups of 10 people each trained in a swimming pool 2 times a week for 3 months. The Reference group was trained as required by the standard training method, with every coach serving 2 children; and the Experimental group was trained by the special training system, also with 2 children per coach, with coachers swimming with children. The similar training systems have been reportedly applied to children with mental retardations albeit exclusively for safety reasons – to prevent accidents with epilepsy-diagnosed children. The new beginner swimming course testing experiment showed its great benefits, particularly expressed in the breath-holding practices combined with recumbent exercises to facilitate progress in the swimming skills; with the individualized coaching service found highly favorable for the children with mental retardations.