Just Needs Podcast: Episode 22

Fun in the sun, tips for kids’ water safety

Pool safety is important for everyone, more so for children with disabilities. Here are 9 tips for water safety and UV awareness to keep this summer fun.

Narrated and written by Christina Kozik

Listen to Episode 22Visit podcast homepage

Christina Kozik:

Hello and welcome to Just Needs, a podcast where we talk about parenting children with disabilities. I’m your host, Christina Kozik, and let me just say I am so glad you’re here. This podcast is a project of Exceptional Lives, a nonprofit organization that supports families like yours. You can learn more about Exceptional Lives at our website, www.exceptionallives.org

It’s the middle of summer and in our house, we’ve been in and around the water a lot. Safety is always our number one priority, but sometimes it’s easy for my son to get distracted while playing and having a great time. It’s important to us to constantly remind him of the water rules. 

This week I wanted to drop into your feed with some quick tips and reminders about water safety and UV awareness. 

While pool safety is important for everyone, for children with disabilities, there may be safety issues and things for adults to be aware of that are not always obvious. 

Here are five pool safety tips that you can share with lifeguards or other people that may take your child to the pool or lake.

Tip one, help your child feel comfortable in the water. 

Children with disabilities, like all kids, may be uncomfortable or scared by the noises or smells of a pool. If your child has sensory issues or issues with balance, getting comfortable in the water can take longer than it might for another child. Be patient, encouraging and stick with it. Even fearful swimmers can learn to love the water. 

My son had swim lessons for the first time this summer, and he was very anxious going into them. He insisted he needed goggles. You know the face mask type that covers the nose too, so that’s what we got. We went to the store and he picked them out. Giving him that control really helped calm his nerves, and he was able to be more comfortable with the unknown of swim lessons.

Tip number two, help your child learn to exit the pool without help. 

Being able to get out of the pool without using a ladder or stairs is an important skill for children to learn. This is a commonly overlooked skill, but can be a necessary one. If a child falls or even jumps into a pool and there is no stairs or ladder nearby, knowing how to exit the water becomes a lifesaving skill. Even kids with low muscle tone or mobility challenges can learn how to get themselves out of the pool. 

And don’t forget to teach them how to float on their back safely in case they need to wait for help. I’ll have a link to a webpage that describes how to exit the pool so you can teach your child.

Tip number three, choose bright and contrasting colors for swimsuits. 

This allows children to be more visible in the pool. Some colors disappear or become very difficult to see underwater. Spoiler alert, neon colors like yellow, orange, and green are the most visible. White, black, gray and blue are the least visible. Keep this list handy when you’re shopping for a new bathing suit. I’ll have a link for some graphics that you can look at so you can see where your child’s swimsuit falls on the chart.

Tip four, be alert, be present, and be prepared. 

It’s so easy to get lost in conversation or in a book when your poolside or at the beach. If someone specific is designated to watch children in the water, then accidents are less likely to happen. A lot of accidents happen when adults assume another adult is watching. 

Tip five, communicating with lifeguards and other parents. 

A colleague has a daughter who is a very strong swimmer. My colleague always lets the lifeguard know that her daughter is Deaf, so if they’re trying to shout something to her or if they’re trying to use a whistle, they’ll know that that won’t work, and they need to make sure that they’re in her line of sight. 

If you have a child that is non-speaking or developmentally disabled, it’s also helpful to talk with lifeguards and other parents about what your child does or does not understand so that they can try to communicate in a way that works for your child.

The second set of tips I have for you are around UV awareness and sun protection. 

July is UV awareness month. Sunlight is our main source of UV or ultraviolet rays exposure. Here are four tips to protect yourself and your family when you’re outside. 

Tip number one, cover up with a hat, sunglasses and the right sunscreen. 

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Wearing sunscreen should be a daily habit, not just for the pool or the beach. This is especially true for children since they tend to spend more time outside. You can also wear UV protective clothing and stay in the shade. Clothing and lots of shade are a great way to stay protected from the sun.

Tip number two, apply the correct amount of sunscreen and reapply. 

Use a palm full of sunscreen and reapply every two hours. If you’re sweating or you’re swimming, you should be reapplying sunscreen more often. I find it helpful to set a timer on my phone to help me remember to reapply sunscreen. I also make everyone sit in the shade for a snack and a drink break for about 15 minutes to allow the sunscreen to absorb into the skin.

Tip number three, everyone needs sunscreen. 

It’s essential that people of color protect their skin too. As a Latinx woman, I didn’t wear sunscreen as often as I should have when I was younger. Now that I know better, I try to wear sunscreen daily. There are some great sunscreen companies out there geared towards people of color, like Black Girl Sunscreen. I’ll link their website in the show notes.

“But Christina, what about sensory issues?” I hear you, and we struggle with that in our house too.

My final tip is do what works for your child when it comes to applying sunscreen. 

This may be singing a song or playing a game to make applying sunscreen less stressful. You might want to use spray or stick sunscreen that’s easier to use. I’ve even seen some moms using makeup brushes to get sunscreen on their kiddos faces. It doesn’t matter how you get the sunscreen on them, as long as they’re comfortable and protected from the sun.

I hope you found this information helpful. And if you have any tips or tricks to share, please drop me a line at podcast@exceptionallives.org or on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram at Exceptional Lives. This podcast was written and presented by me, Christina Kozik for Exceptional Lives. You can subscribe and follow the podcast at our website, www.exceptionallives.org/justneedspodcast. Our website also has blogs, guides, upcoming events, and a resource directory for Massachusetts and Louisiana. If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know by leaving a five star rating or review on Apple Podcast or wherever you’re listening.

Click to play Just Needs Podcast: Parenting children with disabilities episode 22 on Buzzsprout.