HEADS Water Skills Toolkit




Hadrian School, in partnership with HEADS (Hadrian Education and Development Services), has developed this Water Skills Assessment Tool after years of training and refinement of the Halliwick method of swim instruction. This document helps bring structure, purpose and direction to pool sessions, as well as promoting independence and fun in the water for all users regardless of ability.

The pool offers freedom of movement for users. For many with physical disabilities, this opportunity to move freely, without support, is not only life enhancing but helps build self-esteem confidence, communication, relationships and physical wellbeing.

With skills assessment and support, instructors can open up the potential of all users and encourage aquatic freedom, improved breathing control, sensory integration and general physical fitness. Through the consistent application of hydrodynamic principles, users can gain control over their own movements and overcome obstacles to gain the confidence to float and propel themselves independently in the water.

The pool is the therapist. The warmth of the water helps the muscles relax. The buoyancy of the water makes the body feel weightless and free. The water liberates the user from the confinements of land, the wheelchair, the walking frame, the aids and adaptations. The freedom to move independently across the water to where the user wants to go, towards the people the user wants to be with, towards the friends they choose to spend time with, cannot be overestimated.

At its most basic level this HEADS Water Skills Assessment Tool promotes joy and fun and a sense of achievement. It also incrementally breaks down the process of floating and moving in the water based on the Halliwick programme.

Halliwick is a method of water orientation and swim instruction based on the work of James McMillan MBE, an engineer of hydro mechanics by profession and his wife Phyl McMillan MBE, who developed techniques to support disabled swimmers in the 1940s and early 1950s (Grosse, 2010). The International Halliwick Association (IHA) defines the Halliwick Concept as ‘an approach to teaching all people, in particular, focusing on those with physical and/or learning difficulties, to participate in water activities, to move independently in the water, and to swim.’ (Gresswell, A., & Maes, J.P. 2000)

The HEADS Water Skills Assessment Tool builds on this work and offers Instructors a 10 Point Programme from Entry Level 1 to basic swimming strokes at Level 10. The incremental steps in each level are guides to progress but must be seen in the wider context of the users abilities, particular the ability to disengage from the Instructors.

This Toolkit will take the reader through physiological benefits or Hydrotherapy and does not replace the need for the Instructor to access Halliwick of specific Hydrotherapy training. It is a compendium to Hydrotherapy and Halliwick approaches, not a replacement. All Instructors must follow their own detailed Risk Assessments for users, work in close partnership with Health colleagues, in particular Physiotherapists and stay safe following the Normal Operating Pool Procedures. It also encourages the Instructors to follow a detailed assessment and recording process using eBooks as a tool. Base lining is key to demonstrating he amazing progress users can make, as a consistency and continuity of approach.



A hardcopy of the handbook is available for £95.00

If you are interested in purchasing a copy please contact:

HEADS (Hadrian Education and Development Services)

0191 2734440

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