Integrating Children Who May Be Deaf Into Swimming Lessons

By Swim Doctor Irene Joyce and Kim Pullman from The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate

It is important all swimming teachers and swimming teaching assistants are made aware of any child in their class who is deaf, so that they are not mistaken for children who are not listening to instructions. It is also important to let the other children in the class know as well, as otherwise they may think that they are being ignored.

Teaching position is important as the non-hearing child needs to be able to see clearly the swimming teachers face to be able to lip read and observe facial expression and body language.

Speak normally with a clear and unhurried voice and, if you are able to do so, use sign language to accompany the words. Ask which their mode of communication is as it may be through British Sign Language; Makaton; Signed Supported English or Signed English.

Ensure that all demonstrations are clear and correct and that the non-hearing child is watching; gain their attention by gently tapping them from a forward position (not from behind in case they become startled) or wave your hand to attract their attention.

Let them have a chance to watch their peers attempt the activity before they try. Once accomplished allow them to be the demonstrator. Praise the entire class, so the deaf child is not singled out.

Where possible use pictures or symbols to describe movements or activities.

Ensure that the non-hearing child understands where to come should an emergency arise and what the signal is – this needs to be visual. It is a good idea to practice a fire alarm drill during the term, particularly if there is a deaf child in the class.

If the alarm goes off then children in the water close to the deaf child can signal to them to STOP and get out. The swimming teacher may use a red flag to wave at the children.

With non-swimmers the swimming teacher or assistant swimming teacher may be in the water, this will allow for close contact when speaking and for clear demonstrations to be performed. In the water the swimming teacher can offer support and encouragement.

Swimming lessons should be fun for all who attend them. Communication is important and adaptations can be easily made so that each child benefits from their time in the water.

Swimming Teaching

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