Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Contemplating Swimming Lessons

When Matt was a baby and young toddler, I did several parent-child swim classes at our local YMCA. He segued nicely into the independent swimming classes (sans parents) and is learning how to float and blow bubbles with several other four-and-five year old children.

Things have gone quite differently with Nolan. I have tried to do parent-child swimming classes twice, but his chronic, unrelenting ear infections have caused us to drop the classes due to frequent ear drainage and PE tube surgery dates.

Now that we have this round of infections under control and his third set of tubes in place, I have started to consider swimming lessons again. If only hearing aids were waterproof!

Our local YMCA offers parent/child classes for children under the age of three, which doesn't present a problem. I am with Nolan the entire time, within six inches of his ear, and I can sign and shout and sing loudly in the water. At the age of three, most children transition to the "Pike" swimming classes, without parents. With several classes occurring at once in an indoor pool environment, Nolan can't hear at all. His unaided hearing is entirely below the speech banana, so unless you're pretty close or talking loudly, he can't hear you (even in a quiet environment).

Then, because he has tubes and will be submerging his head, he'll need to wear earplugs. Earplugs which will occlude is hearing and reduce any residual hearing to nothing.

I'm not quite sure what to do about swimming lessons. Do I simply wait until he's older and has more coping techniques for dealing with an inability to hear in the water? Do I contact the Y and try to get someone to create an adaptive program for him? Do I put him in the regular class and hope for the best?

Parents who have "been there, done that"- what did you do?


Vivie said...

Leah : I'm not a parent but u know I had hearing aids.

My parents taught me themselves - vacays , beach visits, and for coping , I used to speechread and look closely to what others were doing and copy them.Nolan certainly has a challenge since he's young , but he's smart.I think he'll try the best.

Why don't you do a 'try-out' session at the YMCA? few lessons , see if he can cope ,if not , pull him out.

Also there ARE some waterproof hearing aids!! not like Phonak quality , but they are enough for pool/beach time , though they weren't around at my time.If you want FB me and I'll provide you the link.

Lisa said...

OK - bear with me I'm a novice still. Our ENT told us we didn't need ear plugs in the pool with PE tubes (due to the chlorine). Our daughter's 18m and has been in YMCA swim class (w/o earplugs) going underwater/splashing since February.

Our 4yr old (no hearing issues) is in the pike class (since February also). I've noticed the class is nearly all one-on-one with the kids which should benefit him in the water w/o aides.

I would definately talk to the instructors though. As with every class there are good and not so good swim instructors. Also, our Y offers individual swim lessons (of course they are more expensive) and just started this year with a pike class where parents are in the water too. Either option may work better for Nolan this year.

rouchi said...

Ear infections are more common in HI kids as the ears get plugged with molds once they have finished swimming. The moisture remains in the ear. To top it the chlorine in the water does remove the protective line of the tender ear canal as it is thinner in the ear.I actually have stopped all swimming for her and she just plays around with water.We have many kids around us who had the same issue and so have stopped. You must dry the ear after every swimming class with a hair dryer 1.5 foot away from the ear for 30 secs.Otherwise the moist ear is just right for the bacteria to grow. I have a series of videos on "rouchi6" on youtube on this done by my teacher.I hope it helps somehow.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hi Leah,

We don't have the PE tubes to add in the mix, but with Tate's level of hearing loss and the noise levels at the pool (ACK!) he doesn't have much functional hearing there.

This is what we've done...

I've talked with the staff at our local pool in advance, to see what they would offer. Since Tate doesn't sign very much, having an interpreter (which was their first suggestion) wouldn't be a big help. What he really needs is that one-on-one, or at least a very small class. We've usually been able to get him into classes of 3-5 kids.

I've also tried to make sure that he and Wyatt are put in classes together, even though their ability level isn't always the same. Wyatt can show him what to do... Tate copies Wyatt.

We've had a couple of wonderful instructors who were very willing to "get right in his face" (in a GOOD way!) and demonstrate what they wanted.

And, at times I've paid for a private class for my three boys together. The instructor has basically worked one-on-one with each kid.

I think, to be honest, that just getting them into the water frequently does as much or more towards them learning to swim as the lessons. So if he loves the lessons, great. If he doesn't do well in that setting, just play in the pool with him!

Just my two cents,


leah said...

Those are great suggestions!

Vivie, you're right- if the lessons don't work, we can always pull him out (again). I can definitely talk to the teachers- there's no harm in the asking!

Lisa, our ENT used to say the same thing about PE tubes for Nolan (no earplugs needed), but he has had such chronic infections that it is devastating to get more. Swimming definitely made his worse (we perforated an ear drum and dropped down to an 80dB threshold for that ear- while temporary, we don't want that to happen again). So we have to do earplugs because of his history- the earmolds and the water/moisture make for a terrible combination! If we can keep water out of his ears in the first place, we might be able to avoid those infections.

Julie- good idea about talking to the staff and keeping the boys in the same class. Matt is still a Pike, so it would be easy to get the boys in the same class. Seriously, I don't know why I didn't think of that! My brain is fried, lol.

Rouchi, the earmolds certainly change the picture. With hearing aid earmolds (and he has closed molds with almost no vent at all), the trapped water just leads to infection. I think if we use earplugs in the pool (to keep water out) we might have better luck.. it is such a problem!

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

We're also considering swim lessons this summer. I don't know what you should do - did you see the latest issue of Volta Voices? They suggested meeting with the instructor ahead of time to discuss how to best help Nolan learn. They said to always have them do things in the same order, adding a new skill at the end of the lesson. And they pointed out that it could be helpful to show him things at the side of the pool with his aids in so it makes more sense in the water. I was shocked that the article said that you should learn some signs. Typically AG Bell isn't down with the signing.

Rachel said...


I wanted to thank you so much for your comment on Aubrey's blog! I have been poking around your sight...his early days, when he got his hearing aids, and I feel much better going into our visit tomorrow. It really has made me a lot more comfortable with the idea and how some of it will work and such. This is why I blog...because I would have been lost without your help. Thank you. I may have more questions after our visit, but for now, it has been fun to see how well your little guy has done. We hope that they can bring her some successful hearing too:)

AliciaD said...

That is tricky.

I would talk to the instructors, as suggested, and get a feel of what the class sizes are and how the class is structured, etc. I know you've mentioned before that Nolan does have some sign skills, especially receptively, so if the instructor happened to know some sign or if you could pull in someone who did know some sign or an interpreter that could be a solution.

The idea of having Matt and Nolan together if they are at the same class level is a good idea as well.

I've thought about this a lot recently, as the oldest boy I watch is exactly Nolan's age (he's turning 3 at the end of August) and has a severe-profound hearing loss. His first and primary language is ASL (he signs our eyes off, quite literally. He's over a year ahead in language dev.) he also uses hearing aids and attends speech at school. I'd love to take him and his brother swimming and investigate some swim classes but I'm not sure what is out there that is accessible. Of course, I could try to teach him myself as well but that's a little tricky since he has a little brother that would need a lot of attention and there are a lot of benefits to going to swim classes with other kids.

If only there were waterproof solutions for hearing aids, and D/deaf/hard of hearing friendly swim classes out there. Some schools for the deaf may have them - but I'm under the impression you're pretty far from one.

leah said...

AliciaD, we do use some sign with Nolan. He definitely uses receptive sign, even though he prefers to speak. He has hypotonia in his hands, which limits his ability to form signs (he can sign whole-handed signs like more and ball, but anything requiring fine motor movements is limited- he needs help holding down the right fingers).

I did find out that one of the swim instructors is taking a sign language class, so that will help. Rion does make a waterproof aid, but I've heard that they aren't that great and they're expensive! One of these days, they'll create a waterproof hearing aid with great sound quality!

xraevision said...

This post brought up a lot of emotion for me. When I found out X was deaf, I felt like many of my dreams for his happy childhood came to a halt, including swimming lessons. We quickly learned that there are ways around issues, but swimming lessons is still a difficult one!

X has been in swimming "lessons" since he was a baby, but these are parent participating. Not sure how it will work when he is advanced enough to attend without his daddy. We imagine that we will learn swimming related ASL, have advance chats with the instructor and then stand by the pool side, gesturing wildly. It's funny, but it's also not funny at all because, of course, I want X to have as many opportunities as possible.

Re: tubes. Our ENT informed us that not being able to swim with tubes is a myth, and that X would need to dive underwater three feet or more for the pressure to be great enough to pop them out. We were skeptical, but X has been dunked underwater countless times since his tubes were placed over 14 months ago and they are still in!

Lisa said...

Thanks for the background on tubes and water. It makes a lot of sense that putting the mold back in after swimming can lead to trapping water and the dreaded infections. Maybe we've just been lucky since we use the airdryers to dry Livi's hair after swimming/quick shower.

I'll definately make a point to dry her ears out after every swim now (thank goodness she loves the hairdryer unlike her sister).

Nasir DZ said...

The fisrt lesson to learn in swimming is precaution. toe be precausive, use swimming earplugs
Ear Plugs for Swimming