“Can you encourage her to kick her legs more? “ the instructor said. 

I could have cried. 

I was at a baby swimming lesson with my 4 month old daughter, Niamh. 

Niamh was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus and had contracted an infection a couple of days after she was born which led to her developing meningitis.  

After two long months in hospital I had been so excited about finally being able to take her swimming.

I had done the same swimming classes with my older son and loved them.  

I had read all about benefits of baby swimming for all babies, particularly those born with additional needs and I was determined Niamh would have the opportunity to swim.  

However, I quickly realised this wouldn’t be the case.  

Her instructor knew nothing about her disability when we arrived (and by that I mean that she had one, not anything medical) and had no idea to how to approach teaching her in the class.  

I was so disappointed! 

Feeling frustrated and excluded we reluctantly gave up the classes.  

BUT, as I have learnt over the last 6 years, mum’s don’t give up!  

Mum’s find a way!   

I didn’t want Niamh to miss out, and why should she?!  

Apart from the fact her legs don’t work there is absolutely no reason she can’t swim, she just needs to find her own way to do it.

swimming children with disabilites

And so it began.  

I researched!  

I spoke to countless swim schools and swimming bodies and the overwhelming verdict was swimming would be great for Niamh’s development – both mentally and physically.  

But with no swimming schools willing to allow her to join I made a life changing decision, I trained to be a swimming teacher!  

OK, I’ll admit it was not all driven by Niamh, although she was the instigator.

The more I researched and read on the benefits of swimming, particularly for babies and young children the more inspired I became.  

I couldn’t believe that this fun, family activity could help develop a child’s brain as well their muscles.   

So, I re-trained and I specilaised in baby and pre-school swimming.   

However, my greatest learning in all this has been achieved by swimming as a family.  

Watching my three children, Ciaran (6), Niamh (4) and Joseph (3), swimming and playing together is amazing. 

It is the one place where they are all equal and Niamh’s disability doesn’t factor at all.  

When the water is deep, none of them can touch the bottom so being able to walk is irrelevant.  

On her woggle, Niamh can beat the boys for speed across the pool hands down!   

The water helps support Niamh so I get a rest from all the lifting and carrying that takes place out the water.  

It is amazing! 

Don’t get me wrong, my children are not naturals to the water or world class swimmers, they have their tantrums and refusal to get in the water like all other children….but that is the bit I love….like all other children!  

Even our swimming battles are “normal” and not focussed around Niamh’s disability. 

As far as family activities go swimming is one of our favourites and one I hope we can continue to do as Niamh gets bigger and the logistics of getting in and out the pool become a bit more complicated!

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