Content and Images contributed by Cerebral Palsy Guidance.

Aqua therapy is one of the numerous types of therapies proven beneficial to children with cerebral palsy. Learn about the ins and outs of aqua therapy and the available programs and exercises that would work best for your child.


What is Aqua Therapy?

Aqua therapy, also known as aquatic therapy, is water-based exercises that help improve a person’s physical abilities and functions. It’s been hailed and approved by the medical community as a way to help heal the body, especially for children with cerebral palsy.

In fact, aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for children with cerebral palsy since it allows them to move freely without putting stress or much weight on their bodies (water reduces weight by 90%).

Aquatic therapists generally have several goals when working with children with cerebral palsy, including helping kids to:

  • Develop more muscle control
  • Increase self-confidence
  • Improve strength and physical function
  • Gain more life independence

What Are the Benefits of Aqua Therapy?

Aqua therapy offers a myriad of physical and mental benefits to children with cerebral palsy. Physical benefits include:

  • Improving heart function
  • Increasing resistance
  • Relieving and reducing pain in the joints and muscle
  • Helps protect against injuries while exercising
  • Reduces discomfort while exercising
  • Helps build muscle and muscle control
  • Help build better circulation
  • Improve endurance and flexibility

Mental and emotional benefits include:

  • Improved confidence and self-confidence
  • Better quality of life
  • Better socialization skills
  • Improved sensory integration
  • Improved sense of independence

Types of Aqua Therapy Exercises

There are an array of different types of aqua therapy programs and exercises, but the ones best suited for your child will depend on the severity of his/her disorder, age, physical fitness level, and any associated illnesses or disorders.

In general, the popular forms of aqua therapy exercises include,

  • Swimming (at all levels, including learning to swim)
  • Aquatic yoga
  • Water-based range of motion exercises
  • Balance exercises via flotation devices in deep water
  • Breath control exercises
  • Assisted walking exercises
  • Deep water walk walking
  • Social games to help improve social interaction, eye contact, and sportsmanship

Equipment used during a typical aqua therapy session may include:

  • Flotation devices
  • Toys
  • Weights
  • Compression vests
  • Balls

Pools Used For Aquatic Therapy

Safety should be of primary importance for therapists and other professionals who help children with cerebral palsy. In turn, the majority of pools are generally smaller than standard size pools and come with:

  • Fiberglass or stainless steel shells
  • Built-in attached equipment
  • Safety rails and ladders
  • Thermostat to warm water
  • Easy-to-grip edges

Who Provides Aqua Therapy? How Long Are Sessions?

In general, physical and occupational therapists who are trained in aquatic therapy provide services to children with cerebral palsy. In most cases, these medical professionals not only need to be qualified with working with children with special needs, but they must also possess an AEA Aquatic Fitness Professional Certification (AFPC).

Sessions times will vary depending on the child’s individual needs, but will generally anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes. Children usually need to bring swimsuits, towels, and swimming shoes to each sessions, although some classes may provide these items depending on the program and the family’s financial status.


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