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Deaf-friendly swimming lessons

Photo: With a few adjustments, deaf children can easily be included in swimming lessons

Learning to swim can be a big challenge for any child - especially so if they’re deaf and need to remove their hearing aids or cochlear implant processors. Trying to cope in a noisy swimming pool with poor acoustics can also make communication difficult.

However, deafness is not a health and safety issue and should never be a reason to exclude deaf children and young people from mainstream swimming lessons. By making simple adjustments like using hand gestures or visual aids, teachers and coaches can easily include a deaf child in swimming activities.

Here’s a selection of practical tips and advice to help you make sure your deaf child gets the most out of their swimming lessons and has fun in the water:

  • Consider group size vs. teacher ratio. Your child may benefit from being in a smaller group with additional swimming teachers or assistants to help support their communication needs.
  • Check out the venue - some swimming pools may have slightly better acoustics than others.
  • Observe the swimming teacher and check whether their style is well-suited to your child. Swimming can be taught in a visual way - for example, do they use actions and gestures to demonstrate what needs to be done?

Think about signing them up for classes with friends or children they already know (and who understand deafness).

 Communication support

  • If your child needs communication support with a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, discuss this first with the teacher.
  • Take time to discuss with the swimming teacher and your child the best way for them to communicate.
  • Let lifeguards and teachers know in advance that a deaf child is participating in the sessions. This will alert them to keep a close eye on them.
  • Make sure lifeguards and teachers are aware that your child may not hear auditory cues such as the lifeguard’s whistle.
  • During lessons it’s helpful if the teacher lets other children go first and encourages your child to watch the others so they know what to do when it’s their turn.
  • Kit your child out with a different coloured swimming cap to the rest of the group. This will help teachers spot them easily.
  • Ask the teacher to position the child in the lane nearest the side of the pool to make communication easier.
  • See our Making Swimming Deaf Friendly section for more tips and advice.