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Special Fishies: Aquatic Freedom and Education

“May every Special Fishie find a love for and a freedom in the water”

Definitions and descriptions of some of the Special Needs we can help. As a very respected pediatrician stated there is not a disorder a child could have in which swimming wouldn’t be beneficial.

Aqua Freedom and Strengthening:

Listed are just some of the special needs we work with…..

Stroke Survivors

SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe.

There are four primary types of SMA—I, II, III, and IV—based on age of onset and highest physical milestone achieved.

Individuals with SMA have difficulty performing the basic functions of life, like breathing and swallowing. However, SMA does not affect a person’s ability to think, learn, and build relationships with others!!

Though there is currently no approved treatment for SMA, there’s great reason for hope. We know what causes SMA and what we need to do to develop effective therapies, and we’re on the verge of major breakthroughs that will strengthen our children’s bodies, extend life, and eventually lead to a cure. (Swimming is one of these therapies!)

Cerebral Palsy-

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves.  It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.

The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age.  The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy.  A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.

Learn to swim/Aqua Freedom:

Downs Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition in which an extra chromosome appears, instead of the usual 23 pairs. The extra genetic material affects how a person develops and causes physical characteristics such as low muscle tone, an upward slant to the eyes, and a flat facial profile. Most children with Down syndrome also have mild to moderate mental retardation, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.  When Karen Gaffney was a little girl, she started swimming before she could walk.

She was so good at it, in fact, that in swimming races at the age of 4, she’d let other kids start first, then jump in, catch up and pass them.

Now 23 years old, Gaffney will graduate from college in Portland in June and plans to travel to England this summer to swim the English Channel in a relay team she formed with 11 friends.

What makes her accomplishments extroadinary is that she has Down syndrome.

She will speak in Yakima on Friday, telling others about her experiences growing up with the genetic condition, and how early intervention programs can help children with disabilities. She will also talk about her goal of educating people about the importance of including people with disabilities in all areas of life.



Extremely Fearful/Anxiety

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age


High Need:

Intense babies become the intense toddlers, characterized by one word — “driven.” They seem in high gear all the time. Their drive to explore and experiment with everything in reach leaves no household item safe. Some high need toddlers maneuver around the house carefully, but most do not. These babies run headlong toward a desired object, seemingly oblivious of everything in their path. Soon it dawns on you that the same behavioral trait that can exhaust you will also delight you. The same drive that gets your toddler into trouble also leads him to a level of creativity toward which other children may not venture. Your job is to help him drive more carefully and on roads that he can handle.

Hyperactive: This feature of high need babies, and its cousin hypertonic, are directly related to the quality of intensity. Hypertonic refers to muscles that are frequently tensed and ready to go, tight and waiting to explode into action. The muscles and mind of high need children are seldom relaxed or still.

Along with their unpredictability, these children show extremes of mood swings. When happy, they are a joy to be around; they are master charmers and people pleasers. When angry, they let everyone around them feel the heat. These children are super sensitive.

Spirited (similar to high needs): Intense
Some spirited children are loud and dramatic, while others are quiet and observant. Whether their intensity is channeled outward or inward, their reactions are always powerful. Tantrums can be expected, with the frequency and length depending on your child’s level of intensity. Irregular
Some spirited children have a difficult time getting on a regular schedule.  As babies, they will often need to freed frequently and have odd sleeping patterns. Because of this, they do not thrive well on a rigid schedule and may take a long time getting into a consistent routine. MoodyA small percentage of spirited kids tend to be very serious and analytical. These children tend to be perfectionist and have a difficult time finding enjoyment in many things. PerceptiveLittle details are rarely missed by the spirited child. He may notice things that most people pass without a sideways glace. This can cause the child to be easily distracted and often accused of not listening. Persistent Spirited children tend to be very goal-oriented. They do not easily give up. This can be a wonderful trait, but also a challenge, depending on the situation. Learning to guide this characteristic is extremely important for the child’s success. SensitiveMany spirited children are very sensitive. Some are easily over-stimulated and overwhelmed in crowds, others seem to have a hyper-sensitivity to sounds, smells, textures and light. Most are very aware of emotions, which can cause them to be very compassionate individuals. This will also allow them to absorb and reflect the emotions that others are feeling. Uncomfortable with Change Most spirited children don’t adapt well to changes. They usually need outside help from a trusted someone with transitions. Many will suffer from separation anxiety, especially when they are young. (This is how they get labeled “clingy” as a baby or toddler.)While all children have some of these characteristics, a spirited child will display most, if not all of them.


Inability to sustain attention over time with resulting incomplete work.

Acting without thinking and having difficulty delaying gratification.

Inability to regulate or modulate activity to fit the demands of the situation.

Being physically restless and having nonproductive activity.

Variable behavior from task to task or day to day, implying laziness or having manipulative behavior.


Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or “sensory integration.”

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often have problems with motor skills and other abilities needed for school success and childhood accomplishments. As a result, they often become socially isolated and suffer from low self-esteem and other social/emotional issues.

These difficulties put children with SPD at high risk for many emotional, social, and educational problems, including the inability to make friends or be a part of a group, poor self-concept, academic failure, and being labeled clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive, or “out of control.” Anxiety, depression, aggression, or other behavior problems can follow.