Aquatic Therapy is used as a water based therapeutic tool for many conditions. Occupational Therapists are increasingly tuning into the benefits of treatment within the water. It is different to Hydrotherapy as Hydrotherapy uses water to maintain and restore health. Hydrotherapy is more physically based and is defined as “ . . . the use of water to revitalize, maintain, and restore health." Hydrotherapy treatments include saunas, steam baths, foot baths, sitz baths and the application of hot and cold water on the part of the body to be treated.
Occupational therapy is based on purposeful and meaningful activity in which the person concerned actively engages in their treatment. Purposeful and meaningful activity for children is play. Children learn through play and play is used in paediatric treatment sessions. Water play, therefore, is becoming increasingly popular for sensory integration, developmental co-ordination disorder, attention deficits, hyper active children and many other conditions.
The swimming pool can be transformed into a sensory room with different treatment stations that have different treatment aims such as memory development, co-ordination development , proprioceptive and vestibular feedback. This is done using different props within the water. Each exercise and activity can include one or all of the senses such as visual, auditory, tactile etc as well as using memory, sequencing and other cognitive processes. Speech and language can be developed along side mathematics and the level can be graded acording to the child's ability. The water adds a new dimension to the senses, giving resistance where it is needed and helping with movement flow as required. It is a great way to incorporate strengthening exercises and promote general fitness for the children.
Water is stimulating and exciting and most children love the difference of doing their therapy activities in the water. Activities can be adapted to suit many children in a fun and stimulating way. The water can also be used as a calming tool with relaxing music, a warmer temperature and attention to lighting.