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Sports & Culture

Jumping in at the deep end: Water fun for SEN children

For many, swimming relaxes the body and mind. However, for children with special educational needs, taking a dip in the pool can be a major challenge. Swimming instructor C.K. Kan – or CK to everyone – is determined to make swimming fun for them. Over the past few years, he’s been giving children with special needs such as short attention spans, visual impairment, autism and Down syndrome the confidence and skills they need to enjoy themselves in the water.

Rather than worrying about how fast they can swim or whether they are getting their posture right, CK is more focused on making sure his students can hold their breath and learn basic water safety skills.

Most of all, he wants them to feel safe and happy when they swim, and this means he has to take care of the individual needs of every student. Some children have sharper senses than their peers and get frightened when their ear touches water, so CK will organise extra lessons to help them feel relaxed and comfortable more gradually. Meanwhile, children with poor eyesight are provided with brightly coloured swimming aids. He also has to be very attentive and watch for signs that his students are tiring out before a class ends.

With over 20 years as a swimming instructor, CK now manages the Splash Jockey Club SwimABLE programme. Founded in 2015 to promote the fun of swimming to different communities, Splash trains volunteer swimming instructors in addition to providing swimming lessons and water safety courses for foreign domestic workers, refugees in Hong Kong and children from low-income families. Since 2021, Splash has extended its services to young people aged 7-21 with special education needs, thanks to funding from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

"The main thing is that they feel comfortable, relaxed and happy being in the water," CK said. Given time and guidance, students with special education needs can also have fun in the water, learn basic water safety skills and develop a healthy lifestyle, he added. For the next three years, Splash has designed three different programmes for children with different needs. In total, 550 students and more than 60 caregivers will stand to benefit.

Did you know?

Students with special education needs (SEN) have learning difficulties and need special support. They include children with dyslexia, intellectual disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, attention deficit, and autism.