Log in
Ataxia UK
2,861 members2,688 posts

swimming lessons

My 6 year old has FA and is currently having swimming lessons. He is really struggling with learning to swim and I was wondering if others had experienced this. Also, does anyone know whether having 1 to 1 lessons is advisable or if there are different ways of teaching a child with FA to swim? (the teacher is trying to teach him how to do the strokes correctly and I'm not sure that this is helping him or adding to his stress and frustration).

12 Replies


I am afraid I have no personal experience of this. Are you a member of the parent's page on Facebook which is an extension of the Ataxia UK page? Hopefully there will be someone here who can answer your question but there might also be someone on that Facebook page.

Best wishes



I lost the ability to swim, even though I had managed to learn. It did take me many years though I put it down to not having regular access to a pool until I went to deaf college in my teens where they had their own pool. ..and nearly drowning in lessons at junior school where they made us hold onto a pole and jump in deep end to conquer our fear of water!!

I did swim for several years and enjoy it at deaf school and uni. once back home though I didn't really get chance to go to a pool then when I did found I couldn't swim as well. This was a few years before I developed much more obvious mobility issues, but there's no doubt siwmming doe take alot of skill in co-ordinating your arms and legs, either when both sets of limbs are trying to do similar movement (such as breast stroke) or they're doing something different as in other swimming styles.

I cannot swim now I need some kind of float if I could get in pool and can only do only arms or only legs at once and even then it takes alot of concentration and effort to stay afloat and move any distance.


Hi, my daughter has been having lessons since she was 5. She has progressed but slowly over time. For the last 12 months she has only really been going for exercise with her brother who still needs lessons. In terms of strokes she took a little longer than her peers to master the strokes but got there eventually with the exception of front crawl which has proved her nemesis (each limb does so etching different all at the same time which has been too much)For me as long as she is safe in the water & enjoys it I'm not too bothered about what each stroke looks like. I've not had experience of 1-1lessons so can't help there, sorry.


Thanks for your replies. I'm not worried about how well he does each stroke. I just would like him to be safe in the water, get some excercise and be able to have some fun.


My little lad, aged seven, has been having one to one lessons since he was three, he can now, almost four years later swim twenty metres! His stroke doesn't resemble any 'proper' stroke, it's kind of a mixture of doggy paddle, breast stroke and butterfly, but he at least goes forward now, and is somewhat buoyant. All this time he has been getting weaker in other areas. Do persist, I am sure he will get there, he'll just take a long time getting used to the strokes etc. good luck x


Hi.. My son is 20 years old and has SCA... He is not much of a lover of swimming

Because he gets cold really quickly and his hands and feet turn blue.

But I do take him swimming just not for long period of time because he gets tired with

All the concentration it takes to co- ordinate.

He uses a woggle a float that is a long tube under his belly.

It gives him room to move his arms and legs so he just has to concentrate on swimming.

He does breast stroke.. He has more stamina since going to the gym 3 times a week and also the gym has helped his muscles improve his co-ordination has got better and also his walking, balance and confidence.. I would recommend this to everyone.

I do find tho that when my son gets out of the baths his balance and walking is very wobbly.

Hope this helps x


My son is 15 with CA, he hates swimming, last year we got offered one to one lessons with the children with disability service. he found it hard and only took 10 lessons. i think it's because he puts his under the water when swimming and he gets very disorinated , it's a shame because he has the potential to be a reasonably good swimmer.



I'm in my 40's and have found 1 stroke in particular, hard to do, ( backstroke ) but I have taught myself to do a backstroke-type movement which enables me to move on my back through the water. It's a upturned frog....sounds strange, I know!!!, but seems to work, just lay on your back, use your arms as a dolphin would use their flipper, to push itself along in the water and move your legs as if you are doing squats but try and open them as far as they will go and push yourself through the water.

I hope this will be to some help, what with your little boy finding, some strokes harder than others



My daughter is also 6 years old. She had been going to swimming lessons since approx. 9mths old. First symptoms of CA was at 14mths old. She didn't progress as quickly through the stages as other children. At the age of 5yrs children go into the pool without their parent or instructor I had to "fight" for my daughter to continue lesson with the 3 to 4 year olds as the swimming instructors rightly felt she was too unsteady to go in herself, at about 5 and half she was aloud in herself with her peers. However when she was 6 her condition deteriated and was unable to go swimming lesson due to the degree of her ataxia.

However I have now found swimming lesson in a near by council which are aimed at children with disabilities you have to go in with your child and their is a very high ratio of instructors to children. This maybe worth a try. They help the child to learn how to breath when in what & have fun.

Good luck with your son.


I have FA and I've suffered from it since I was very young. I doubt I can swim anymore (I haven't tried since I was 13) but I used to be able to swim ok. It took me longer to progress (I stopped when I reached 50m) and I always hated front crawl, in hindsight this was probably because there are more things to coordinate - like breathing!

Personally, I would have hated one-to-one lessons. I went swimming because (a) my parents made me(!) and (b) because it made me feel normal, and I made friends. I actually stopped lessons because I noticed the teacher starting to treat me differently to everybody else. This is just how I felt at the time - I realize that everybody's abilities differ.

I should mention that I went to swimming baths with my family before I started lessons - when I was 4 or 5. So when I started lessons I wasn't thrown in the deep end, as it were.


I can only say (in my experience of g'daughter FA) - swimming is very tiring - and (to her) embarrassing. She only can do it if there is no other- or very few other - people in pool (even Hydro-Pool) - and that it doesn't matter a jot about the 'style' of swimming. If he can get into the pool and splash around enough to be able to stay afloat - that is all that its about!!


Thank you for all the advice. We will persevere.


You may also like...