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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Taking the Plunge

Published November 14, 2008 8:58 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
"Nature has provided us generously with everything we need to remain in good health."
--Sebastian Kneipp

The historical beginning of aqua therapy dates back to the ancient practices of the Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and Romans. Then, in the 19th century, Sebastian Kneipp a Dominican monk revived the theory. He believed in the power of healthy living and is said to be the "father of hydrotherapy". You can read more about Sebastian Kneipp and his book My Water Cure at: Today hydro or aquatic therapy is used worldwide to treat a variety of diseases, ailments and injuries, including arthritis, spinal cord injuries, burns, spasticity, stroke and paralysis and much, much more.

Aquatic therapy is traditionally utilized by Occupational and Physical Therapists, not Speech Therapists. However, over the past several weeks, I "tested some new waters" by jumping in the pool with several of the children I work with in my full-time early intervention position. This is something that I have been interested in for several years. I am not an expert aquatic speech therapist, nor do I pretend to be. Other than being a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who happens to love the water and is a pretty good swimmer, I do not have a ton of experience.

I admit I have always loved the water -- swimming, water-skiing, kayaking -- in the water is often where I feel most alive. Years ago, I taught swim lessons with little children and I earned my Junior Lifesaving Certificate at the Jersey Shore. About three weeks ago, I attended a three hour Hydro-Therapy training at CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) for pediatric Occupational Therapists. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a great deal even though it was not tailor-made for my profession.

As you can see, today's post is a little more personal than usual. I am on the hunt for trainings to help me develop my aquatic speech therapy skills. In addition, I would love to find therapists (especially close to home in the Philadelphia, PA area) who share my love and interest in aquatic therapy. Over the last few weeks I found a few speech therapists across the country that are practicing aquatic therapy. I have also recently subscribed to the weekly Aquatic Resources Network internet newsletter which appears currently to be my best resource.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments regarding aquatic speech therapy....thank you!



My name is Mori

My 2yr old Angel was born on the 25th week and he is having developmental problems, we live in Los Angeles and I am looking for some kind of pool therapy, can u help do u have any ideas or...

Mori Ben

Mori Ben August 30, 2009 4:57 PM
Studio City CA

I am really pleased to find this blog - I work in the UK and am wanting to get into the water with groups that I work with in a special school.  I am really excited by the communication opportunities that exist in the pool and can see a real difference for some of my children - who all have significant learning and physical difficulties.  Yifat - I would be so interested to hear of what you have presented, I will get onto your page now!  I hope that those of us worldwide with an interest in this field can support one another, even though we are so far spread.

Anna , Speech and Language Therapist February 4, 2009 2:43 PM

Eliana ~ I just watched your videos - your music and the work you do is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us....The post for this Friday, January 16th will be my interview with an aquatic speech therapist that you may really enjoy....

Thank you again....I love hearing what people from all over the world are doing to help babies and toddlers......You are so gifted!

steph, blog author January 12, 2009 10:28 PM

I am tickled to find such a wonderful blog about speech therapy and water.

As a founder of a medically researched healing music modality, built upon the conscious use of voice and rhythm as a natural healer, such was used in ancient times, I work alot with the element of water.  

The original research on Voices of Eden music was conducted over a three year period in an Israeli neonatal ward, the second research was conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto, the water researcher who conducts experiments upon the effect of music upon water.

You can see a photo of the water crystal after it was exposed to the music composed for the healing music research in the neo natal ward here:

Here is an interview regarding the research project along with a clip of the actual research in progress:

I will be very interested to learn more of others work.

Eliana Gilad, Founder

Voices of Eden

Ancient Healing & Transformational Music

Eliana Gilad, Ancient Healing & Transformational Music - Founder, Voices of Eden January 5, 2009 5:58 AM
Galilee, Israel

Yifat ~ It was fascinating to hear from you and the work you are doing in Israel. I would love to speak with you when you are visiting in NY and I would love to hear more about the 3 month training you had....I googled your name and found your web page - how wonderful it is! I will try contacting you through that....thanks for writing in!!

steph, blog author December 10, 2008 9:14 PM

I am speech therapist working at a rehabilitation hospital for children and young adults. I have being working in a therapeutic pool for the last three years. Here in Israel there is a profession called "hydrotherapy". As a speech therapist all I needed to do is study a three month course learning how to hold the patient in the water and learning many techniques of using the water and its advantages for the treatment. I also had the privilege to attend Susan Nachimson's course last summer.

I have being trying to start a research on the efficiency of  working in the pool for voice therapy. The children I work with are mostly Children with CP,with head injuries or spinal injuries. I also have a child with ASD and a child with a severe language impairment.

I am working on building  theories to base my work in the water since there are none written.

I presented my work in different conferences here in Israel.

I would love to keep in touch and change experiences and knowledge, if you want to talk I am planning on a short trip to NY at the end of this month maybe we could talk.


Yifat Cohen, Children with severe handicapp - SLP, Alyn Rehabilitation Center, December 6, 2008 11:53 AM
Jerusalem, Israel

Susan ~

Thank you so much for writing in!! I googled your name and found your email address so I will send you off an email so that we can keep in touch, especially regarding the March 2009 training. I was thrilled to hear from you and I'm so happy you found the blog! Talk with you soon....


stephanie, blog author November 23, 2008 8:37 AM

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for your blogging!  I am not sure if you have contacted me as I am traveling and not near my list of contacts for AquaSLP.  However, I was just invited to teach a short introduction of my Aquatic Therapy for SLPs at the ATRI conference being scheduled in March 2009.  I am not sure which weekend will be chosen or where they are planning on holding it (East Coast, Western States).  But it seems it may be a "go" as long as there are a minimum of 10 participants.  So far, I know of 4 from Baltimore who are interested.  I have been working in therapeutic water settings since 1986, similarly to what I read of your experience---water is my passion!  I have NDT background and the handling techniques go together with an aquatic environment.  There are many aquatic courses but not more than mine in our field.  I would love to have people expand upon my perspective.  You may be the one!  Feel free to keep in touch.  Doing speech therapy in water is still an idea that isn't sought after, but is a great tool with good results.  Check out my website for basic information from my perspective.  Stay in touch, if you'd like.  Keep working in the water!  You know it works.  and thanks for the good referencing aquatic healing practices....take care. Susan

Susan B. Nachimson, Speech Pathology - SLP, NDT, WatsuPractitioner, Private Practice November 21, 2008 10:21 PM
Garberville CA

Thank you all so much for your comments. I am so happy to hear there are other SLPs out there that see the benefit of aqua tx!! I am planning to do more posts about it after Thanksgiving (I'm working on a few feeding posts right now). I did two co-treats this week at the pool with 2 different PTs and it was so helpful. I am also working on getting an aquatic PT interview scheduled for the blog. Thanks again and let's keep the conversation going!! Feel free to send along an email if you want to talk apart from the blog and if not, we can chat through the posts. THANKS!

stephanie, blog author November 20, 2008 7:23 PM

One of the PTs who I share a number of students with uses the pool for therapy and is always thrilled when I ask to come and co-treat with her. Parents love it as well. I've only done it with one student (scheduling conflicts) and he is non-verbal. At the pool, he is much more vocal. I would like to incorporate it more into my therapy and am curious to know how others are doing it.

Lisa Durstin, speech language pathology - MS, CCC-SLP, pre-k November 18, 2008 8:09 PM
Norwich VT


I was so pleased to read your blog. I  have been utilizing a pool setting on a limited basis for the past four years when working with early intervention clients. The children receive therapy at our agency using a co-tx model of SLP and OT but during the summer we make use of an outside therapy pool. It is ramped so children can get in on their own time and establish a relationship with the water that feels safe. It also accomadates using a wheel chair if need be. Some of the children prefer the what they call the "baby pool". It is really the hot tub (without hot water) and has very shallow steps where they can sit,stand or walk on a bench. The water in both pools is always a warm 92 degrees so there is not temperature shock. It is easy and fun to do language activities including naming water toys, following directions, making requests, pacing and self regulation and the list goes on. Please let me know your plans as you pursue your passion and know I share the same. I know we are not geographically close but I am willing to lend my experience and brain power so lets talk. Hope to hear from you soon.


Jo Ann

Jo Ann, Speech - Speech/Language Pathologist, Early Intervention November 18, 2008 7:59 PM
Albuquerque NM

I admire you for following your heart and incorporating aquatic therapy in our field. I work part-time as a nanny with a non-speaking boy who engages in vocal play as he lies on the water and listens to himself. It opens him to experimenting with speech sounds. Keep in mind that acoustics are incredibly exaggerated in water - just drop a penny in the shallow end to find out. There is something unique that you will discover. Keep diving into it!

Kat , Speech and Language Pathology - Comm Disorders student, Cal State University, Fullerton November 18, 2008 5:30 PM
Laguna Beach CA

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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