Adaptive swimming lessons for kids and adults with disabilities.

Teaching a disabled person to swim requires a very different skill set from regular teaching in the pool. Each situation will be different and there is no blueprint to follow for success. This is an area of expertise for Swimtime that we’ll be exploring in this blog.

Swimming can be highly therapeutic for adults and children with special needs. The water provides a feeling of weightlessness and can also offer a reassuring sense of calm. At Swimtime, we’ve consciously grown this side of our business in recent years to help make swimming more accessible for everyone in our communities.

As we’ve done more work in this area, we’ve found that the quality of the teacher is paramount in the successful teaching of disabled individuals in the pool. We would also say that unlimited patience and commitment are the two characteristics, above all others, that teachers need to have. 

The other thing we’ve learned is that good preparation is vital before lessons take place. It’s so important to understand the special needs of the person being taught and the kind of things they are likely to respond to as well as those that might cause them distress. 

Meet our champion for disabled swimming

Richard Wilson qualified as a Swim Teacher in 2000 and soon developed an interest in teaching disabled children. This started a few months after qualifying when he agreed to take on his friend’s son as a pupil to enable him to feel comfortable in the water, as most of his time was either spent in a wheelchair or in bed. From the moment that the boy’s face lit up when they first got him into the pool, Richard knew this was an area of swim teaching that he wanted to focus on more. 

As time went on, with much patience and hard work, the boy was able to swim and it was apparent that the journey had been beneficial for him in so many ways. Swimming helped build his core strength so he was able to hold his posture. The extra muscle development enabled him to straighten his body posture and improve his bowel movement. Before he started swimming, the boy’s left side was extremely weak and his left shoulder dipped. Swimming helped improve strength in his shoulders and also brought them level. Before he finished his lessons, he even completed a 400-metre swim. 

As well as all the physical benefits, the parents could see that the whole process had made a hugely positive impact on their child’s confidence and self-esteem.

A passion developed over many years

This inspirational experience set Richard on a new path. As his interest in swimming lessons for disabled individuals grew, he joined Swimtime as a teacher in 2004. With the business rapidly expanding, he jumped at the chance to buy the Lancashire Franchise region in 2005. His passion for making swimming available to all individuals, regardless of disability, has steadily grown over 20 years.

As a teacher, Richard discovered the need to be flexible and willing to try new things to overcome challenges he may have never faced before. As each situation is different, experience can be invaluable with the teacher often learning as much in a lesson as the child does.

Disability swimming lessons at Swimtime

At Swimtime, our lessons aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for all individuals as we work to improve their swimming skills and gain confidence in the water. Each child will have individual challenges and need special care and attention. This can involve anything from having sufficient time to get used to new surroundings to making allowances for different levels of concentration when it comes to learning.

Like Richard, Swimtime believes disabilities should not stop you from accessing a pool. If you need support to get into the water, most pools have a hoist system and disabled changing facilities. If you’re not sure which pools might be accessible for you, get in touch with your local Swimtime office ( and we’ll be delighted to help. Alternatively, just Google “disabled or SEN swimming” in your area.

Looking for funding?

Depending on your disability, there may be charities that would be willing to provide funding for you and it’s well worth contacting them to see if they can help out. is a great charity to start with. They’ve been able to help many of our disabled and SEN children access lessons with financial support. is another wonderful charity that specifically helps wheelchair-dependent children. 

If you have a disabled child with an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan), the school may get additional funding to provide your child with swimming lessons as part of their additional needs. 

You could also check your local council website or, which is a leading charity for disability and exercise. 

More work to be done

While there are now an increasing number of opportunities for disabled children and adults to learn to swim, there’s still much more that could and should be done. At Swimtime, we’re currently developing teaching programmes at the Swimtime Training Academy so we can offer more courses with a focus on SEN and disability. 

We’re also currently working closely with the National Deaf Children’s Society to upskill our teachers to be able to communicate more effectively with deaf, hard of hearing and non-verbal swimmers.

Can you help?

As well as suitably qualified teachers, we need more pool space. If you have access to a pool that could benefit from the additional revenue of a disability lesson programme, we’d love to hear from you. 

Swimtime is also currently looking for a partner to sponsor children’s disability lessons so we can offer them free to those who need them. If you could help with any of this, please send an email to

Published by Swimtime: (updated: )