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Imagine London, circa 1950. Envision a school full of children who society has labeled ?crippled.? Picture a school full of girls, all with severe physical and mental disabilities. Then one day, these kids? lives are transformed.

On that day, James McMillan teaches them to swim.

More than 50 years ago, a handful of girls experienced firsthand the therapeutic value of water. Remarkably, not only did the children learn to swim, but they also showed improvement in a host of deficits such as breath control, head and trunk righting, and even self-confidence. Clearly McMillan was on to something.

Today, the ideas McMillan first conceptualized in that school, the Halliwick School for Crippled Girls, are known as the Halliwick Concept. But the original concepts have mushroomed beyond adapted swim instruction and into therapy.

Recognizing that the Halliwick Concept had implications for the therapy world, McMillan and his colleagues brought his ideas about balance and water into the realm of therapists. The resulting strategies are known as Water Specific Therapy (formerly called the Logic Approach to Therapy in Water).

The Halliwick Concept combines the unique qualities of the water with rotational control patterns in an attempt to facilitate improvements in the body?s neurological, musculoskeletal and psychosocial systems.

In Halliwick, the client is often held or supported in the water by the provider who systematically and progressively destabilizes him in order to teach balance and postural control. The provider progresses the client through a series of activities, which require more sophisticated rotational control, to teach the client to swim (for adapted aquatics clients) or gain control over movement (for aquatic therapy clients).

The client is continuously required to react to, and eventually to predict, the demands of an unstable environment. Once balance is improved, providers may move their clients toward more independence (for instance, standing or walking) to enable them to perform advanced tasks, such as an obstacle course.

There is no special equipment to purchase if you wish to bring the Halliwick Concept to your pool. Until clients achieve proper balance, Halliwick is performed in a 1:1 relationship without the use of belts, collars or other buoyant devices.

Why? McMillan and his colleagues believed that floatation devices were props that would only encourage dependence, not freedom, and that every individual should learn to safely control him or herself in water without any such aids.

Halliwick was originally performed in a cold water swimming environment, but your clients will be more comfortable if it is conducted in warmer temperatures, such as the water found in recreational pools (usually 85 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit) or therapy pools (usually 90 degrees or higher). Water depths of 31/2 to 41/2 feet will permit instructors to remain grounded on the bottom while holding clients.

It is helpful for the pool environment to be quiet enough to allow clients to hear instructors; however, a silent pool is not necessary as techniques can also be administered non-verbally.

McMillan felt strongly that ?Misuse or careless application can mean that well intended therapy fades into merely tender loving care.?

Thus, in 1994, the Halliwick Foundation (HF) and the International Halliwick Association (IHA) was formed to protect and preserve the integrity of the Halliwick Concept. Cases of misuse of the name Halliwick made it necessary for HF to register its trademark. European registration of the word Halliwick is pending.

In 2007, the International Halliwick Therapy Network (IHTN) was formed to further develop the therapy elements of Halliwick. Seminars, training manuals and videos are all available to help the clinician learn the technical aspects of Halliwick. To find out more about bringing the Halliwick Concept to your pool, check out the Additional Resources links.