Occupational Therapists with aquatic training work with children in the pool who have a variety of disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, spina bifida, mental illnesses, intellectual or learning disabilities, muscular dystrophy, and down syndrome. Your therapist will complete an initial aquatics assessment with the child in their first session and create goals targeted to their specific areas of need. Sessions are completed at a pool within the community and we typically work with the child on a 1:1 basis in the water. 

Occupational Therapy
Occupational Therapy

While any child could benefit from aquatic OT, children who have significant sensory and/or motor issues may benefit the most. Examples of children who might benefit from aquatics include:


    • Children who are fearful of water in the pool or bath-time

    • A child who is easily overwhelmed in loud or busy environments

    • A child who struggles with gravitational insecurity or other vestibular problems. For example, children who become distressed with having their feet off the ground while climbing stairs, curbs, or playground equipment, or kids who become distressed with their head upside down.

    • Children who seek a lot of input (constantly moving or touching things) and have a hard time settling down

    • Children who have motor difficulties, such as:

      • Trouble with coordination and difficulty using smooth, fluid body movements to complete everyday tasks

      • Poor midline crossing

      • Difficulty using both hands at the same time for the task

      • Decreased muscle strength

      • Limited range of motion

      • Low or high muscle tone

      • Spasticity.

If your child is already in more traditional occupational therapy, why make the switch?

  • Depending on the task, the water can be used as
    • resistance (strengthening muscles; intense proprioceptive input)
    • assistance with movement in a gravity reduced environment that is unlike any other equipment available in the traditional clinic. This provides decreased strain on muscles/joints and is easier for weight bearing.
    • It allows us to work on navigating the community in an unpredictable environment

Aquatic therapy works wonderfully as stand-alone therapy or as an adjunct to your child’s current therapy. Benefits of working in the water include:


  • A calming, serene environment 
  • An opportunity to work on community participation and social skills 
  • Excellent whole-body sensory input 
  • Having fun while working on targeted areas of need!

One family shared that after making great gains in the clinic, their child’s progress started to plateau.  Moving sessions to the pool opened up new level of engagement, provided novelty, and was an added motivator to keep their child moving forward!

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