The Power of Inclusion: Celebrating Local Individuals with Down Syndrome in Swimming

At first glance, swimming may seem like a simple recreational activity or sport, but for individuals with Down syndrome, there is more to it than that. The joys and challenges of swimming on a team also shows the importance of integration and inclusion in sporting activities. It is still not commonplace to see our friends participate in team sports like swimming and in having integrated teams with all abilities. This is why we celebrate some of our friends who are a part of the 2023 Franklin HS Swim and Dive Team.

Why is it so great that people with Down syndrome swim?

Swimming is a fantastic activity for individuals with Down syndrome and everyone for numerous reasons. Physically swimming offers a low-impact, full-body workout that helps improve strength, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness. Many individuals with Down syndrome face challenges related to muscle tone and motor skills, and swimming can aid in developing coordination and muscle tone. The buoyancy of water also supports learning these movements.

Various swimming strokes require people to cross the midline and develop bilateral coordination. Bilateral coordination is when one side does one motion, while the other side is doing another thing. These dual actions help to strengthen recall, sensory processing, and coordination. For example, in order to tread water, the legs must be doing scissor kicks while the arms must move in and out. At the same time, the eyes must move around to help guide the path of the swimmer. Body awareness is also related to bilateral coordination. This is the capability to know or have a feel for where your body is without always having to look, based on sensory inputs and awareness of joints and muscles. Without bilateral coordination, many everyday tasks are very difficult to achieve. 

Why is it important that we have integrated teams with all abilities?

Integration and inclusion are fundamental principles that enrich society as a whole. When it comes to sports like swimming, integrating teams with diverse abilities is essential for several reasons.

Firstly, it promotes a culture of understanding and acceptance. It breaks down stereotypes and fosters empathy and respect for everyone, regardless of their abilities. It educates athletes and the community about the capabilities and potential of individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

Secondly, integrated teams create a supportive and encouraging environment. Athletes learn from one another, inspiring and motivating each other to push boundaries and achieve their personal best. This inclusive setting nurtures teamwork, cooperation, and friendship.

Lastly, integrated teams can encourage new role models to develop. Seeing others excel in a sport can be immensely empowering and inspiring, encouraging each team member to pursue their passions and dreams. Swimming fosters social interaction and provides a sense of belonging and achievement. Being in the water can boost confidence and self-esteem, promoting overall well-being. Swimming can develop into a recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout life, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

In conclusion, swimming serves as a powerful tool for individuals with Down syndrome, offering both physical and emotional benefits. By fostering integration and inclusivity in sports, we can create a society that values and celebrates the unique abilities of every individual, paving the way for a more compassionate and understanding world.

Some additional information on Bilateral Coordination can be found here:

Today we celebrate some of our friends on the 2023 Franklin HS Swim and Dive Team.

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