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Swimming with a Deaf or Hearing-Impaired Child

Swimming with a Deaf or Hearing-Impaired Child
30 December 2014 2264 Views No comments

Swimming is a great form of exercise for every child and is an important part of developing movements and confidence in the water. As well as being a great form of exercise, swimming can benefit your child in other areas of their life and development, helping them to become more outgoing.

This is true of every child, no matter whether they are hearing-impaired or deaf. While the ways in which you teach a child to swim may be different from case to case, every child will benefit hugely from being in the water.

With this in mind, it is a good idea to get your little one in the water at the earliest opportunity. This will encourage their swimming abilities, help them to be comfortable in the water, and keep them fit and healthy.

While you may be concerned about how your deaf or hearing-impaired child may cope with swimming lessons or playing in the water, you needn't be, as there are easy ways that you can help teach them and build their confidence. Using simple steps, you can help your child learn how to swim and keep them safe, no matter what their hearing ability.

According to research from the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS), there are over 4,500 deaf and hearing-impaired children living in Britain, with four deaf babies being born every day. With this in mind, it is important to remember that every child's hearing ability is different, as is their experience of it.

This means that while some may take to the water with aplomb, others may be more hesitant. Just as with hearing children, those who are worried about being in the water simply need a bit more time and patience.

You can help them to feel safe and secure in the water by taking things slowly and not pushing them to do more than they are ready for. You can also provide extra peace of mind through the use of buoyancy aids, which support their natural buoyancy in the water and help them to feel more confident.

Once they are in the water, here are a few things that you should remember.

Be clear before you get in the water

Ensuring that you and your child know exactly how you'll be communicating when they're in the water can save confusion later on. They might find some forms of communication easier than others when in the water, so this might change depending on their experience.

It's important to remember that how you communicate is about making it easier for them, not for you, so the ball is in their court.

Get their attention

Before talking them through anything or demonstrating something to your child, make sure you have their attention. This can be difficult if they are already swimming, so try waving or settle on an action before getting in the pool which means that they are to stop what they are doing.

Keep distractions to a minimum

If there is a lot going on in the pool, move to an area where there are fewer distractions. This will help your child to maintain focus and ensure they don't miss anything.

If your child wears a hearing aid or cochlear implant, it can be helpful to move to the poolside to explain important things, as they will be able to put these on for a few minutes as you go over everything.

Stay calm and avoid shouting

Even if the pool is busy, you should avoid shouting directions to your child. Shouting will distort your lip movements, making it difficult for your child to read them. Speak naturally, but be sure that they are looking directly at you so they don't miss anything important.


It can be difficult for a deaf or hearing-impaired child to pick up on tips you are giving as they are swimming, so demonstrations and gestures are key. Talk them through actions and show them so that they get a clear idea of what you mean before trying it themselves.

Once they have tried what you showed them you can give them pointers, rather than trying to get their attention as they are swimming, causing them to lose focus.

Let them ask questions

Make sure you answer any questions your child has before expecting them to give a swimming technique a try. This will help them to feel more confident and can stop them worrying, which can hamper their progress.

Stay in one place

If you are swimming in one section of the pool, make sure you stay there, especially if it is quite busy. Not only will moving around make it more difficult for your child to lip read, but it also means that they might not be able to find you when they need you.

Staying in one place makes it easier for them to spot you in a crowd, as they know they can just go back to the same area of the pool.

Have a backup

If your child is having difficulty understanding something you are explaining, having a different way of showing them what you mean can be helpful. You can use pictures or write down what you mean at the poolside to give a better understanding.

For techniques that you aren't able to demonstrate correctly, try getting someone else to show them. The worst thing you can do with any child when teaching them how to swim is give up, so finding a mix of what works for your little one will help them develop their skills.