Muscat: About 15 children with special needs of varying ages were trained to swim at the Marina Bandar Al Rowdha pool under expert Omani and Dutch instructors.
Children from ages six and above were taken into the pool at the marina and were trained to swim.
The first event for the year took place yesterday with children from the Dar Al Aman home for the disabled in Al Khoudh, and today visually impaired students from the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) will be trained as well. In total, about 30 children and adults are being trained.
Instructors from the International Association for Handicapped Drivers (IAHD) in Holland: Gerard and Mariah Oijnhausen guided one child at a time in the pool for about 25 minutes.
Although some children were initially reluctant to enter the pool, they gradually liked the feel of the water and wanted to stay in for longer.
These training sessions have been on from 2010 under the guidance of Tariq Al Khabouri, who founded the Oman Disabled Diving Association (ODDA) and has since been working with the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) and several private organisations to make this project a reality.
The last such training session was held in August last year and the next one will be held in December this year.
Oijnhausen, one of the two trainers, said, “For disabled or autistic children, when they see us swimming or diving in the pool, they emulate you, that’s how we try to teach them. For blind children they can hear and feel, so we use that and try to hold their hands and make them understand, we also speak to them.” Oijnhausen and her father have been training physically challenged people for many years in different countries. Originally from the Netherlands, they have conducted similar sessions in Indonesia, West Indies and other places.
According to Oijnhausen, aquatic therapy helps such children in movement and allows them to learn in a fun way. “This is really for fun, children like this a lot, they like the feel of the water and they feel calm and relaxed once in the water. Their muscles and bones are also exercised.”
Everyone needs to be checked by a doctor to be tested medically if they are okay to go in the water.
A new website, which is aimed at promoting therapy through diving for those with special needs, was recently launched.
“We started doing these events around 2010; I was always enthusiastic about the initiative but it was Stephanie who encouraged me to start. What we do under the Oman Disabled Divers is that we organise at least two diving events per year for people with special needs where they are first medically checked and then taken under water where they are taught certain diving skills,” Al Khabouri said.
“This helps them with movement and works as therapy. We have seen many people take part in this initiative over the years and do very well. Some of them may find it hard on the ground, but when they go into the water, together with the skills taught to them they are exceptional.”