Promoting benefits of swimming

Newsletter no. 3, November 2010




'We know you can do it!'

'Swimming can make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged people, and support through training methods can help with this. I'm delighted that we've had the opportunity to highlight the importance of the Halliwick method through the European eSwimming project.'


This was the conclusion of Dr Stanko Blatnik from Velenje in Slovenia, at the final meeting of eSwimming partners. Outcomes from the two-year project include a website in six languages, with materials for trainers, parents and swimmers, and the message: 'We know you can do it!'


The team in Velenje working on the website will continue to add new materials to it after the project's conclusion at the end of this month, in response to the growing interest in the site and its contents.


Some of the work of the project can also be seen on YouTube, in a video 'I Feel the Water' ( This video is available on DVD for swimming groups to show. The video was produced in the Scottish Highlands by the Slovenian artist Selena Kuzman, built from film sequences taken in Velenje, as part of the contribution of the project's Scottish partners, Going Nova.


The story of the Halliwick method goes back to the year 1949, when a swimming club in London organised a gala to raise funds for a local school of disabled girls – the Halliwick school. The girls from the school sat in the audience and watched the others swimming.


In the bus on the way back, the club's swimming coach, James McMillan, was quiet. Then after a while, he suddenly said: 'Why not?'


He was an engineer, so decided to apply some principles of hydrodynamics, and he devised a 10-point method, which involved helping people to feel at home in the water, building up skills such as balance. That was the beginning of what is now called the 'Halliwick method', which has the great advantage that it applies to all disabilities.


The aim of the swimming project was to help to spread the word about what is being achieved by the method, the trainers who use it, and the International Halliwick Association. A series of presentations through the month of October has been highlighting the value of swimming for disadvantaged people and the ways in which the Halliwick concept can help.


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Workshop in Slovenia leads to plans for next year

An international workshop in Velenje on 26 October attracted participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Spain as well as from Slovenia itself.


Velenje is the home of IPAK, the Slovenian innovation group who are coordinating eSwimming, and Dr Stanko Blatnik from IPAK opened the day with a description of the project and its achievements. Nastja Brisnik and Mladen Blatnik spoke about their experience with swimming courses in Velenje for people with special needs. Katarina Praznik and Maja Garbajs described the progress of the Halliwick method in Slovenia.


There was much interest in the presentation by Alejandro Ceballos from Spain, who monitors the recovery of people with long-term serious injuries. 'It was fascinating to see how regular swimming can significantly improve the health condition of disadvantaged people,' said one of the workshop participants after the talk.


Sanja Selimović from the University of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke on the role of swimming for children with special needs and how their progress can be monitored. She explained how IPAK and the eSwimming project had triggered the use of swimming as therapy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


There was much lively discussion throughout, with experience from different countries being shared and several ideas for future collaboration emerging.


The participants from Rijeka in Croatia decided to organise the same type of workshop next year in Croatia.


Workshop participants also took the opportunity to attend practical sessions in the swimming pool to see how the Halliwick method for disadvantaged people is implemented at Velenje swimming club. Alejandro Ceballos took an active role in the practical work.


Overall, says Dr Blatnik, it went really well. 'The workshop was very successful and it will be organised next year at Velenje too.'


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Workshop in Spain: spreading the word in Granada

In Spain the Down's Syndrome Association of Granada – known as Granadown – joined forces with the Spanish partner in eSwimming, Scienter España, in the organisation of a workshop on the city of Grenada on 28 October.


Details of the Halliwick method were given by a national expert, Dr Javier Gueita, professor of physiotherapy at the University Juan Carlos I of Madrid. He described particular benefits for Down's Syndrome and looked at various aspects of the Ten Point Programme, including core stabilisation, movement principles, and a fall prevention approach. He described the role of the method as a reactive therapy and in a motivational, problem-solving approach, and also in chronic pain treatment.


Granadown's swimming trainer, Javier Ceballos, spoke on a number of practical techniques and then led a session in the association's swimming pool involving several swimmers of different ages and abilities.


'It was a big success,' said one of the Scienter España staff afterwards. 'Around twenty-five people attended, and it was an excellent opportunity to present the eSwimming project and the Halliwick concept, which is not yet well known in Spain. The cooperation of everyone was a big help and much appreciated. We have been carrying out a range of other presentations, spreading the word as widely as we can.'


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Workshop in Italy: a day of interest and enjoyment

Meanwhile in Italy a one-day workshop on eSwimming and the Halliwick method was organised as part of a course being taught at the University of Bologna. The course, on sport science for disabled people, is directed by Prof. Melissa Angela Milani as part of the Faculty of Sport and Motor Science's curriculum.


The event was organised by the Italian partner in the eSwimming project, the research and training group Amitié, in cooperation with the Faculty.


The workshop was attended by students, swimming teachers, social workers and other professionals working with disabled people. It took place on 21 October.


The participants heard about the eSwimming project, and then about Dall'Acqua in su ('From the water and up'). This is a swimming project for disabled people which is managed by the Villaggio del Fanciullo Sport Club of Bologna. There was also a short video presentation on the work of the Association Aquamondo of Varese.


The second part of the workshop focused on the Halliwick concept. It was presented by the Italian expert Marco Barile, a member of the International Halliwick Association and of the International Aquatic Therapy Foundation.


He explained the origins and history of the Halliwick concept, illustrating the Ten Point Programme and its principles.


The venue then moved to the swimming pool, where he demonstrated the Ten Point Programme for twenty of the participants who had registered for a special two-hour practical session.


'It was really a unique occasion,' said one of the Amitié team afterwards. 'The Halliwick concept is not so well known in Italy as it is in some other European countries, and so this was an opportunity for people to hear about and experiment with the methods. They were able to try out parts of the Ten Point Programme, and to enjoy the very pleasant atmosphere of games and songs, along with plenty of group exercises, all of which are typical of the Halliwick approach. It was very good to see the interest and enjoyment through the whole day.'


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