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Swimming tips from parents of deaf children

Photo: Parents share their swimming tips

Here’s a round-up of swimming FAQs and practical advice to make sure your deaf child swims safely and has fun in the water.

Are there any deaf-friendly swimming events for deaf children?

  • Yes there are. Our deaf-friendly swimming galas are a wonderful opportunity for deaf swimmers to meet, have fun and compete together in a friendly and supportive environment.
  • They’re open to deaf 8-18 year olds who can swim at least 50 metres, but younger swimmers are welcome to take part if they’re confident swimmers.
  • No previous competitive experience is necessary.

Swimming and coping without hearing aids?

  • Talk to your child beforehand so they know what to expect and practice some signs for things like kicking your legs and paddling with your arms. Use British Sign Language (BSL) or make up your own!
  • Encourage them to keep looking at you so they can see your face.
  • Just enjoy splashing around!

See also our section on Swimming and communication for more helpful tips.

Should we worry about ear infections?

  • Some children may be susceptible to ear infections triggered by swimming. Germs may get into their ear via the ear canal or the eustachian tube when water enters the mouth.
  • Most ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors recommend that children enjoying swimming, rather than worrying about potential ear infections. These can usually be treated with antibiotics.
  • Ear putty or swim moulds are helpful in protecting deaf children’s ears from infection when swimming.

See also our section on Hearing aids, cochlear implants and swim moulds.

My child has additional and complex needs?

  • Many pools are fully accessible to those with disabilities and have entrance ramps, specially designed changing rooms, hoists and other adaptations. Pool staff are often well-trained and happy to help when needed.
  • Use the Amateur Swimming Association’s Poolfinder tool to find a pool near you.
  • Look out for the dark blue Disability Access wheelchair symbol, which means the pool has disability access.

Using the changing rooms with my deaf child?

When getting changed in cubicles, they might not be able to hear someone call to them or knock on the door. Or, they might not be able to get someone’s attention if they need it. Here are a couple of useful workarounds:

  • use the group or disabled changing cubicles, or
  • have your child close but not lock the cubicle door.

If someone else is taking your child swimming with their own children:

  • Let the other adults know they may need to agree a signalling system that your child understands. For example, place a flash card or an object on the floor under the door to get their attention.
  • Introduce a ‘buddy’ system with the other children (children pair up, get changed near each other and don’t leave the changing room until their ‘buddy’ is also ready).