Wednesday, 14 November 2018

What is Hydrotherapy and why Little Hiccups provides it.

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Little Hiccups provides Hydrotherapy sessions in collusion with Sportsworks and PT Kids. This year we were fortunate enough to secure a Grant from Big Lottery Fund which enabled us to provide 3 sets of 7 weeks to 12 families each time. That equals to 36 families that received Hydrotherapy through Little Hiccups this year.

A hydrotherapy pool is different to a typical swimming pool as the water is warmer (usually ranging between 33-36°C). And the pool we use at Armley Leisure Centre is fully accessible with Changing Places and hoists to allow all the children to access the pool. 

Its hard to explain why this is just so beneficial to the families involved. I could tell you that Hydrotherapy is ridiculously expensive (I've done a rough working out of our sessions and it works out about £90 for one 30 minute session for one child). And the majority of families are just unable to afford those kinds of costs. 

I could also tell you that Hydrotherapy is a good bonding session between parent and child. The children are receiving physiotherapy from trained physios in the water to help with their conditions but its FUN. The warmth of the water allows the children's muscles to relax and it eases the pain in their joints. They are exercising without knowing they are exercising. 

But above all we find it necessary. The feedback we get from families proves just how essential it is:
"I think Liam thought he was having another birthday- swimming whilst his pool buddies sang Disney songs to him- very happy boy! Maybe he will even sleep tonight!!!"

"I just wanted to send you a quick message to say thank you for having Rose on the hydrotherapy sessions, she really enjoyed it and she was started to show slight movement returning during and after the sessions. Hydrotherapy has been fantastic on helping Rose recover, so thank you again for helping us."

"Harry loved it and moved and kicked more than he ever has so that was great thank you"

"Just  a quick email to say that my kids absolutely loved the hydrotherapy! The help there was great and really understanding so a big thanks for organising - my kids were asking to go back the next day."

I also have so many families contacting me in regards to joining us on our Hydrotherapy sessions and we really do try too oblige them all.

Liam has low muscle tone and neuropathy which mean his legs do not work well and he cannot stand or walk unaided. He spends much of his time either in his wheelchair or kneeling on the ground. He misses the opportunities of other 8 year old children to exercise and run around. His legs need frequent stretching to help them maintain a small amount of functionality - which means he can weight bear and help with transfers which are essential to maintaining a bit of independence for Liam.

Liam is registered blind which means that he also loves the water and the sensory experiences he gets from being in a pool - touch and sounds particularly. 

There are many barriers to Liam accessing a pool as a 'normal' child. Liam requires hoisting which many facilities do not have. The specialised hydro pools are very expensive to access regularly and even then they do not include extra support once Liam is in the pool. He is very sensitive to the noise of other children - so a busy communal pool on a weekend is no good and he also needs two people to help in the water (when exiting the water particularly) and as he has siblings, it is not possible for his parents to do this alone. 

Liam finds new environments difficult to deal with. So the first time he went along to Hydrotherapy he was slightly cautious at first as his language is very limited so it is difficult to explain exactly what is going on.  He was anxious about getting in the pool, and nervous about the other people he could hear. This was helped by the reassuring welcome of the trained physios there, who were ready and expecting him. 

Over the 7 weeks Liam became not just confident but positively  eager to get to swimming. He started to remember some of the people's names who were in the pool with him, and ask for them as we approached the changing area.  He really  really enjoyed his sessions. They did his stretches in the water, great for Liam .They played games with him and included the other children which was a lovely opportunity to get him to 'socialise' - which he doesn't often get. By the end of the sessions he was 'standing up'  - weight bearing in the shallower end and 'jumping'  - something I've never seen him do before.  His confidence with the physios also meant he went from being unwilling to be on his front swimming, to choosing to swim on his front during his sessions.  It was great exercise for Liam, who's options for physical activity are very limited. 


Alexander is 17 months and has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. He is moderately affected and needs full support with sitting and he is non-mobile and non-verbal at present.

The hydrotherapy at Armley allowed him to engage in a fun and stimulating physical activity as well as offering him an opportunity to exercise and build up his core strength.

The accessible changing areas meant he could be easily changed and dried in a safe and secure manner. The accessible changing rooms also helped his mum as she didn’t have to bend and strain her back or worry that the changing bench was too hard for his head if he thrashed around.

Alexander was a little bit apprehensive at the start of the first session, but the warmth of the Hydrotherapy room meant he didn’t get too cold when undressing and changing and the warmth of the pool helped him to relax. The trained physios and volunteers were able to engage Alexander in a range of positions and moves that allowed him to safely stretch and relax his limbs with high tone and exercise and build up strength in his core.

The equipment available in the hydro room such as the float station net of balls and foam frog mats were appealing and encouraged Jacob to work that bit harder as they made the activity fun and stimulating. These extra pieces of equipment along with the room hire and access to qualified Physios are expensive and his parents would struggle to pay for the sessions if they were self-funded.

The staff were friendly and knew how to support Alexander in the pool which made him feel safe and allowed him to concentrate on the therapy exercises. As the sessions progressed Alexander became increasingly confident in sitting on the float station and moving around the pool with the physio on the foam frog!

Just before we started hydrotherapy we found out that Anna had an unsafe swallow of liquids, with silent aspiration. The hydrotherapy sessions showed us how to hold Annasafely in the water so she keeps her face dry and exercises to help her to use her legs in the water and ease leg stiffness. Since the hydrotherapy sessions we have been able to take Annaswimming ourselves and keep her safe in the water. Anna is looking forward to continuing hydrotherapy sessions once she starts at specialist school in September.

*All names of children have been changed.

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