CHENNAI: Many parents with disabled children engage them in various activities to manage their condition, which also enables them to have some resemblance to normalcy.
One of those is swimming (hydrotherapy), an activity that experts swear by. Some of these kids have taken it a step further and won medals in their leisure activities.
In a recently conducted State-level Para Senior/Junior/Sub-Junior Swimming Championship, three children with muscular dystrophy, a condition that leads to muscle degeneration, have won various medals.
M Pandian, the swimming coach, specialised in coaching for children with special needs since 1993, recommends hydrotherapy for disabled children. It helps in relieving muscle pain and can also develop into a hobby in due course.
Says Pandian, “Hydrotherapy, in addition to physiotherapy, has been proven to be very beneficial for children with physical disability. Though they might be a bit hesitant initially, with patience, the treatment can show great results.”
In the championship, Vishnu Vardhan (10) won gold medals in all 3 categories – freestyle, backstroke and breastroke. VG Anirudh (11) won a gold and a silver medal in 2 categories. Muzaffar won 2 gold medals.
Pandian recalled a 10-year-old boy who took six months to near a pool but is currently doing all 3 strokes. But he also cautions parents and swimming coaches to be patient while teaching special-needs children. “Coaches must understand and learn the challenges and fears of every child with conditions. With patience, you can gradually invoke interest in them,” he says.
The Youth Welfare and Sports Development Department has been holding free swimming classes, including hydrotherapy sessions for free, since 2017 for special-needs children below 16 years, says the department official.
Speaking about how hydrotherapy impacted her son with muscular dystrophy, N Vijayaprabha recalls the trauma when many swimming pools refused to teach her son due to his condition, until she came to know of Nehru Stadium.
“My son started hydrotherapy only six months ago. He picked up swimming in 10 days and is now winning medals,” she smiles.