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The individual with Spina bifida myelomeningoceles may have difficulty maintaining a relatively horizontal position when floating, gliding, or swimming because of the difference in relative density of the upper and lower trunk. This can usually be remedied best by adding a little additional weight at the trunk.

Special care must be taken when helping the individual with Spina bifida transfer from a wheelchair to the pool deck. Mats on the pool deck may help the transfer be safe.

Special care must also be taken when helping the individual with Spina bifida transfer from the pool deck into the water. Mats on the pool ledge and drain deck may be useful. It will be difficult for most individual with Spina bifida to make a transfer back into the chair when wet; if hands and arms are slippery the individual with Spina bifida is at risk trying to push into the chair.

Care must also be taken to ensure the wheelchair seat doesn’t get and stay wet because of potential damage by water, chemicals, and/or sand.

Most swimmers will wear devices for bowel and bladder elimination. Some may be carefully secured to the swimmer’s body with tape and covered discretely by the swimming suit. Others sacks may be removed with the catheter clamped off while the swimmer is in the water.

Tube feeding stoma need to be carefully covered with tape. A physician can recommend a tape that is waterproof and less likely to break down skin.

Most swimmers with Spina bifida myelomeningoceles will be most successful using a supine floating, gliding, and swimming stroke; they move most effectively if the recovery of the arms occurs in the water.

Individuals with Spina bifida need to be reminded to be careful when scooting about on the pool deck. Lack of sensation makes it difficult for them to know when they might be bruising or cutting their legs or feet.

The water is a wonderful place to work on equilibrium and the development of postural muscles required to maintain good functional movement in the chair.

Sitting upright on a floating mat, playing while draped over a fun noodle, and treading water in an upright position are excellent strategies to develop upright posture. Maintaining body alignment in glides and strokes may also help with the development of postural alignment on dry land.


Carol Huettig, Ph.D.
Texas Woman's University
Please reprint only with permission of the author

page last updated 10/9/2014 6:14 PM