Geaux Strong is an eight-week program designed to build strength, endurance and independence in the water for children with special needs, including those diagnosed with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental delay, Asperger’s syndrome, spinal cord injury, childhood cancer and genetic disorders. Our goal is to improve each participant’s ability to safely swim or move in a pool while providing education on nutrition and wellness for the family.
- Obesity can be a concern for special needs children; many use a wheelchair 8-10 hours daily, resulting in insufficient movement to burn calories and manage weight gain. Many parents of children with special needs are unaware of their ability to safely float, maneuver and swim in a pool.
- Families of children with special needs are often strapped with medical costs related to their child; therefore, it is important that the program is offered at little or no cost to the participants.
Geaux Strong offers special needs children the opportunity to improve their fitness level in an aquatic environment. Program goals include:
- Improve the independence and safety of children with special needs (mild to severe) in an aquatic environment.
- Provide a wellness program that builds strength, endurance, confidence and socialization in children with mild to severe neurological impairment.
- Provide a period of respite for caregivers by allowing them free access to Woman’s Center for Wellness during class time while volunteers assist participants in the pool.
- Expose participants to successful young adults with mobility challenges via our Living Strong Panel.
- Offer volunteer opportunities to students who may be interested in education, medicine, therapy and health sciences.
- Transition children with special needs from a swim program overseen by therapists to a swim program or team within the community with their peers.
How it Works
- Geaux Strong is conducted by a pediatric physical therapist and physical therapy assistant with 18+years combined experience leading aquatic therapy and wellness programs. They are assisted by community volunteers who work one-on-one with participants in the pool.
- Both an indoor lap pool and indoor heated therapy pool are used at Woman’s Center for Wellness with a maximum of 10 participants in each pool. The use of dual pools is essential as some participants cannot metabolically tolerate the cool temperature of a lap pool.
- During the weekly one-hour sessions, participants engage in activities that are fun while improving strength, cardiovascular endurance, breath support, social skills and independence in a pool.
- Concurrently, families are offered educational sessions taught by a licensed dietitian regarding nutrition and exercise with emphasis on the unique needs of children with disabilities.
- Participants set personal goals and group goals, learning how to encourage each other to achieve success.
- Upon completion of the program, participants showcase their newly achieved skills for their families, receive awards and t-shirts from their volunteer “shadows” and enjoy a party with family.
- Strong panel discussion featuring Geaux Strong “graduates” and professionals is offered during the eight-week program during which audience members ask questions regarding mobility, education and social issues while receiving valued input from young adults living successful lives despite issues related to their disability.
Geaux Strong is supported by a generous grant from ForeKids! Foundation.