When teaching students that present with additional learning needs, it is imperative that you think outside the box. In addition, you must understand that they can swim, it just may just look different to what you usually see. When an Adapted Aquatics Teacher has the knowledge of their Swimmer's condition and disability, it plays a significant role in their success.
Create a ‘Student Profile’ with information such as: medical diagnosis/history, parent prospective, assessment outcomes and social behaviour/triggers. With this information, it now becomes the responsibility of the teacher to obtain further knowledge of the student’s condition. The more knowledge you have ensures you deliver appropriate teaching skills and strategies that will produce progressive and positive lessons.
Pairing and 'Low Demand, High Reward'
For many individuals with additional learning needs, interacting with others can be a challenge. To ensure students feel safe in an environment, the Adapted Aquatics Teacher must firstly gain their trust. This is not always easy to achieve, and even more so when you try to gain the trust of a new and anxious student. At this point you may or may not accomplish pairing. Pairing is a common term that Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) professionals often use to describe the process to build or maintain rapport with a client.
Therapy often begins with intentional and thorough pairing. This is where it’s ALL about what the client enjoys and ensure it's available on a non-contingent basis. Basically, the therapeutic relationship should start off with 'low demand and high reward' . You will know when pairing has been accomplished when a child willingly engages in an activity with you. Or maybe when they are excited to be near you and will do anything you ask of them. Research shows if you do not accomplish ‘pairing’ in the first few interactions with a student, you never will.
Trust and Consistency
You can gain trust when you establish achievable goals, boundaries and consistency. It is imperative that the goals that are set are achievable. When you ensure students have a positive and progressive program, the foundations of swimming can be mastered. In addition, when you set boundaries, students will begin to understand the lesson structure and expectations. Once a student knows what is being asked of them, they will strive to achieve the expectations of the teacher.
Next comes consistency; students can feel confused or unstable without consistency. Students can also receive mixed messages when consistency is different on a weekly basis. They develop reassurance when a routine is established and, together with boundaries, the learning environment can be a positive and progressive experience. When we establish the boundaries, expectations are consistent and our behaviour management plan will begin to evolve.
Effective communication requires both parties to engage and be an active listener. This is a skill that you can acquire and develop with practice. Active listening means that an individual fully concentrates on what the person says, rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. It involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening - otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they talk about is uninteresting to the listener. At this point you may lose the trust/pairing of your student.
Remember some of your students are non-verbal and they are experts in reading your body language. Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as eye contact, nodding your head and smiling. In addition, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm-hmm’ can encourage them to continue. By providing this 'feedback', the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.
Here are the 10 principles of effective listening:
Being an informed teacher of Adapted Aquatics requires research on whatever condition you are presented with and the more knowledge you have ensures you deliver appropriate teaching skills and strategies
Knowledge plays a significant role in the choices of strategies to produce a positive environment. There are four Common Functions of Behaviour.
- Social Attention: a person may engage in certain behaviour to gain some form of social attention. It can occur because for some people, it’s better to obtain “bad” attention than no attention at all
- Tangibles or Activities: some behaviours occur so the person can obtain a tangible item or gain access to an activity they desire. For example, a child might scream and shout until their parents buy them a new toy (tangible item) or bring them to the zoo (activity)
- Escape or Avoidance: sometimes, the person wants to get away from something. For example, a child might engage in aggressive behaviour so his teacher will stop running academic tasks
- Sensory Stimulation: The function of some behaviours are “self-stimulating”. They give the person some form of an internal pleasing sensation or else removes a sensation that is displeasing (e.g. pain).
Reinforcement and Consequences
How you respond with your reinforcement and consequences has an impact on the present and future behaviour of the student. Here are four behavioural goals:
- Attention: Some students do almost anything to be noticed - from being argumentative to being funny. The attention seekers may need to be disciplined which should happen away from the rest of the class
- Power: Some students want to be in charge or in ‘control’ of a situation and these power struggles often occur in front of an audience. Remove the audience and calmly discuss expectations with the swimmer
- Revenge: Some students may lash out or try to ‘get even’ as compensation for real or imaginary hurt feelings. Discussion needs to happen about acceptable behaviour. Swimmers should understand that their teacher respects them and their feelings.
- Avoidance of Failure: Some students have no faith in themselves to accomplish activities within a lesson. Swimming teachers should set these types of student achievable tasks and give lots of positive praise throughout lesson.
We hope that you now understand the importance of constantly gaining further knowledge on your student’s condition, communication skills and behavior strategies. Not only will these teaching tools assist you in teaching ALL students to swim, you will also gain much understanding of situations out of the pool. Our philosophy at WWSS is that everyone is entitled to a positive aquatic experience and the way in which this can be achieved is by continuing with personal development.
The Adapted Aquatics training can be found in our Swim School Hub and PD Academy platforms. To learn more contact us here.