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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

CSM 2012: In The Pool

Published February 11, 2012 9:50 AM by Danielle Bullen

Chicago--"We haven't been a big player, you think of OT and SLP when you think of kids with autism." So said Beth Ennis, PT, MSPT, EdD at the CSM session "Using Aquatic Therapy To Encourage Community Engagement For Families Of Children With Autism." Every seat in the room at McCormick Place was taken and some attendees even sat on the floor at this extremely popular session. Together with her Bellarmine University DPT students, Ennis is working to make sure PT has a place at the table when treating children with autism spectrum disorders.

Water is ideal with kids with ASD, some of whom also have a secondary diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. The buoyancy is supportive, the hydrostatic pressure gives constant sensory input and the resistance of the water strengthens muscles. The Bellarmine University physical therapy program wanted to create a safe environment to encourage movement.  They created a ten week aquatic therapy program for children in the community with autism.  A local facility donated the use of their pool. For ten weeks, Ennis and the students worked one on one with six children in sixty minute weekly sessions. 

They developed a program for each child based on their individual needs. Some things they did included ball toss for hand-eye coordination, core exercises on a floating mat, and jumping from student to student for strengthening. There was also a much-needed social aspect to the program as the six children were all in the pool together.

After the ten week program, Ennis evaluated the kids based on the WOTA scale, which asks questions like, How did they get into the pool? Are they comfortable? Every kid exceeded the minimal statical change with the scale. Ennis admitted that since the group was so small, more studies are needed, but she was ecstatic with the preliminary results.




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