Having a child with a disability changes the typical expectations that a family has for their child. When a child is born, parents expect to see growth and development, as well as anticipated social interactions. Making plans for the future becomes more complex as the child grows older.
Being left with little or no time for fun after a day of going from therapy to therapy can be taxing on a family. The question arises, “How can I bond with my child?” One great way of doing so is through outdoor adventures that are centered around water. Water calms the mind and soothes the soul.
Water calms the mind and soothes the soul.
In his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Stuart Brown maintains that play is essential to our health and longevity. Psychologists and neurologists have found that like play, being in, on, around, or near water taps into ancient neural pathways and their associated neurochemical reactions that can calm our overactive minds while engaging our senses. This process can help us access a state that allows our brains to restore, which can lead to enhanced cognitive performance, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.
Being in and around water can help special needs families shed stress, reclaim hope, and find inspiration.
Being in and around water can help special needs families shed stress, reclaim hope, and find inspiration. One of my favorite bonding activities that I like to recommend to the families I work with is a dolphin swim. During a family dolphin swim, both parents and children experience joy as new abilities are discovered.
Not only is water calming and beneficial for one’s mental health, but it also strengthens fine and gross motor skills as children play and move. During an outdoor marine adventure, families learn to problem solve and communicate better as a team, all while enjoying a great time of bonding!
Throughout my career and personal life, I have seen firsthand how children overcome fears when in the water. Dr. Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neuroscience at Stanford University, shares that being outdoors and focusing on a panoramic view has a calming effect on the nervous system, easing stress and anxiety. When we stand in front of the ocean and view the horizon, we are not simply enjoying the view; according to Dr. Huberman, our body is actually releasing dopamine, which is a reward molecule in the brain.
Being in and around water is beneficial to us all. It’s a good thing that the ocean covers over 70% of our planet and that we live in a state surrounded by beautiful beaches. I hope this article inspires you to plan more adventures on the water!
Lourdes Zarro serves as the Upper School Director for Calvary Christian Academy’s ESE Program. Having begun her career in 1989, Lourdes has over 30 years of experience helping families navigate the challenges associated with Attention Deficit Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Varying Exceptionalities. As a parent, she has experienced the joy and challenges that come with having a child with a learning disability. Outside of CCA, she serves as the CEO of LZ Coaching Group and Sonfish Outdoor Adventure Program.