Water-based method to improve your child's physical and mental development

Holiday Shopping is right around the corner

Summer is over. School’s back in. Fall’s crispness is in the air…which means ghosts and goblins, then Thanksgiving family gatherings and – yes – holiday Christmas shopping. The WaterWayBabies neck ring is an excellent gift to consider for your special loved one. At $40, it is reasonably priced for most everyone, but you might know a family who has it on their ‘wish list’, just waiting for a little help from a friend or relative. I’m always touched when a person purchases for someone else’s child, but never more than during the Holiday Season when folks actually order for someone they don’t even personally know, but follow on the web. The true spirit of giving!

Soon, those orders will be ramping up so please don’t wait too late to place yours for guaranteed holiday delivery. And if you are reading this and one of those who could use a little extra help with purchases, consider adding WaterWayBabies to your page or blog. You just never know what elves are out there reading your stuff!!

Options for bigger kids

I previously shared the advantages of being upright in the water in order to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit by stimulating the neuro-developmental pathways that support rolling over, crawling, and walking. Being in water deep enough to accommodate one’s height helps accomplish this. Once a toddler or small child has outgrown his or her WaterWayBabies pool or bathtub at home, parents must look to other resources.

Many YMCA’s have warm water therapy pools. The YMCA accommodates special needs with lifts and ramps, as well as being a convenient and cost-effective option. For more information, go to http://www.ymca.net/find-your-y/. Some YMCA’s are unfamiliar with the neck ring and may ask questions, so take along my ‘Instructions for Use’ and brochure to share with the lifeguard or Aquatics Director.

You might have a community-based therapy pool in your community. This is highly individualized from place to place. I know, for example, we have an excellent source here at our Houston, TX, Multi-Service Center. And there is a fabulous place called Lakeshore in Birmingham, AL; TLC4Blind and The Rosebowl Aquatic Center in southern California; and natural spring-fed pools in Colorado and New Zealand… to name a few. I’m sure they are sprinkled across the country and if you will email me yours, I’d love to construct a map as an online resource! I would like to make a WORLD MAP of all such pools that you know of. ?

Aside from these options, you might get a bit more adventurous and assertive by asking your local hotel/motel to use their pool during slow traffic times. The water probably won’t be therapeutically warm (92-93*F), but at least, the depth is there.

Once parents see how much their special child benefits from and loves the water, more of them than I would have ever imagined actually put a pool in their own backyard. While this might seem complicated and laborious, it can be well worth it. And it does not have to be cost-prohibitive! Yes, there is the luxury of an in-ground pool, therapy pool, or swim spa. Oftentimes, Make-A-Wish will help with funding. To make a wish for your child, go to http://wish.org/refer-a-child.

A less expensive alternative is an above-ground pool. I’d like to share what a Texas family recently emailed about the backyard pool they installed for their tall, strapping young adult son with CP:

Patty and Lonnie bought an above ground pool at Wal-Mart. Pools range from $200-2000 (they got theirs when they went on sale in off-season). It is 54 inches tall, which means you would get at least a 4 feet of water depth. They spent roughly $1900.00 on the materials for a deck and ramp, which Lonnie built so there were no labor costs. A filtration system came with the pool, but they use a chlorine-free “Krystal Clear Saltwater System.” While the water temperature is weather-regulated, a thermal blanket-pool covers will raise the water temperature by several degrees.

Here are some photos of the pool and ramp below:




Getting a big guy like Taylor (120 lbs) from a wheelchair into the water takes some doing, but Lonnie and Patty have devised a system that works for them. First, they roll Taylor up on a shower chair up to the poolside deck. Then, they use a regular Hoyer-type lift to move him out of the chair and onto one of those big inflatable tubes you see pulled behind a boat (see photo below). It is there that they put on his neck ring. Lonnie then jumps in the water and they slide the tube with Taylor onto it into the pool. From there, he can be rolled off into the water.  To get Taylor out, they use a thick cell-foam float from Academy that they put under him while he is still in the water. Then Patty gets on the deck and pulls the float and Taylor out with Lonnie lifting from the pool. Then, they reverse the steps using the lift to get him from the ground back up onto the shower chair and back in the house. It might sound a bit complicated, but they have found it works for them and is a good alternative to purchasing a much more expensive pool lift.

Here are some photos Patty sent that will show you better what I have described above:














I never cease to be amazed at the level of creativity, drive, and determination you special parents possess when it comes to helping your child! I hope these examples have given you food for thought about different water options as your child grows up.

Happy swimming! 



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Other above-ground options for you to consider

A Helpful Tip

Research shows that it is better to wrap your loved one in a big warm, fluffy towel upon removal from the water for about 10-15 minutes before drying and dressing to reduce rebound muscle tightness.

A helpful update, part two

Now, you can choose from THREE different sizes of neck rings:

Small should fit infants up to 25 lbs

Medium should fit toddlers in between 25-40 Ibs

Large should accommodate children up to 40-150 lbs

Please note the size you need when you place your order through paypal.

The Benefits of Being Upright in the Water

Summer is finally here! From cooling off to just having fun splashing around in the water, summer is the season for swimming! So, what better time is there to talk about one of the many benefits of swimming with a neck ring? One of the most important benefits that WaterWayBabies can provide is holding children upright in water with a neck ring when placed into a pool versus a bathtub. Being upright is a tremendous advantage, especially for children with neuromuscular disorders, given that water releases the burden of gravity and allows the child to move around freely. Cyclic arm and leg movements in the water mimic crawling or walking. The child can also rotate 360 degrees in water, strengthening the neck and trunk. Both of these things can create “waves” of progress towards having more upright mobility out of the water.

The human body is designed to be upright. Being upright allows significant psychosocial benefits to children and their parents, including:

  • Increased independence & self-image
  • Being able to practice standing
  • Enhanced social development & interactions with peers – ‘eye to eye contact’
  • Participate in activities that are meant to do standing up
  • Encouraged inclusion in group swim activities

Clearly, being upright is a motor milestone that goes beyond physical limitations.

Other alternative techniques that attempt to help a child with neuromuscular disabilities stand upright typically skip levels of development, which limits their success. An example would be putting a non-walking child into a stander prior to that child going through crawling and creeping stages of development. Skipping these steps will make a very weak foundation for higher brain level function. The plasticity of the human brain means that specific simulations, such as being upright in water, can change the function and structure of the brain. However, these stimulations need to be given with proper frequency, intensity, and duration. This is precisely why WaterWayBabies recommends using a neck ring while upright in water on a daily basis in order to “water” and nourish the roots of a strong foundation in a child’s physical development.

Given that the body must be in a body of water bigger than a bathtub in order to be in an upright position, it is highly recommended that the neck ring should be used in a pool of some sort. For infants and children up to about 3-5 years of age (depending on size), parents may opt to buy the WaterWayBabies pool along with the neck ring. It sits 30 inches tall and is 30 inches across, allowing for the necessary depth for the child to be upright. In addition, the bright green color of the pool stimulates the child’s vision. Water toys may be placed within reach or mirrors hung on the side of the pool. Soft music or gentle singing also adds to the fun and creates a multi-sensorial experience. For those who are older and/or larger in size, there are other options, such as installing a home therapy pool or checking out aquatic centers that are close by.

Well, that’s all for now and I hope you learned something new! Have a great summer!

2013 – Trends and News

2012 was an interesting year…. WaterWayBabies orders grew tremendously over the summer! July orders exceeded the total number for all of 2011.

I hired two highly skilled research assistants to collate and analyze 2008-2011 order records. We learned that:

  • orders were virtually evenly distributed between male and female children for each year.
  • within the US, people living in the Midwest states placed the highest number of orders, followed by the SE, then West, then NE…and lastly, the SW (includes my home state of TX, sadly enough).
  • orders had also come from 30 different countries outside the US, with 20 of those orders originating just within 2011! This proudly supports the WaterWayBabies’ mission to serve children and families around the globe.
  • therapist use of the neck rings grew significantly each year, and therapist-generated orders increased 500% from 2008 to 2011, meaning that even more parents will know about WWB.

I also asked the RAs to read all the emails and comments I’ve saved from each of you..to see if they noticed any ‘themes’, recurrent findings, observations, or emotions, that parents or therapists have shared either about themselves or their child while using the neck rings and WWB pool. Neither RA had ever heard of WWB before beginning this project. Nor were they a parent and had no firsthand experience with disabled or special needs children. In other words, they were totally green! I wanted to make sure my enthusiasm and perhaps prejudiced beliefs about the benefits did not taint their findings. Well, it was pretty darn exciting! They refrained  from discussing with each other until the day the three of us met again….

BOTH said the prevailing recurrent theme was FREEDOM. They showed me time and time and time again, how so, so many of you had related your joy at watching your child be free to move about in the water. That your child who you love so much lit up with the realization that he or she was independent, not being held by you, and moving on their own. Several of you shared with me the happy tears you cried that first time. I know because each time I get to witness it firsthand, it is very emotional. And it’s not even my own child.

So, thanks to you ALL for sharing. It is because of you that WaterWayBabies continues to grow and flourish. This weekend, I counted again and we are now in 49 countries! Many more therapists, schools, recreational facilities, hospitals and clinics are placing orders, in addition to all you parents. There is a physiotherapist in New Zealand who uses natural geothermic pools…where she can work with more kids at one time because each one is wearing a neck ring. There’s another physical therapist who uses the neck ring as part of the aquatic therapy continuing education courses she teaches across the US. So many wonderful stories… all because YOU love your child so much and do everything possible to help her or him have the best life. In doing so, you have touched my life in ways I could never have expected.

Tidbits of News you may not know

— Did you know that getting a flue shot during your pregnancy is not only safe but may also prevent stillbirths, premature delivery, and fewer undersized infants according to a recent study. Canadian researchers studied the records of 55,570 mothers of singletons – of whom, 23, 340 were vaccinated while pg..and found these results. So, next Fall, get your flu shot!! 🙂

— Running a fever during pregnancy is associated with a risk of autism and developmental delays. Taking Advil or Tylenol for fever did not affect this potential outcome. Fever implies an inflammatory response in the body which may play a causative role in autism. The scientists have yet to determine if a particular time in the pregnancy makes a difference. Stay tuned!

— More than 1 in 10 babies is born premature. 1 out of 8 within the US. Prematurity increases the likelihood your baby will have future problems, either physical or cognitive. Early intervention is the key to preventing developmental delays and improving outcomes. Don’t wait for your pediatrician to tell you there is a problem. And if you suspect, even in the slightest, push your child’s doctor to order therapeutic services. Advocate for your child and trust your gut!

— On a happy note, did you know that children smile about 400 times a day??!! Only 1/3 adults smile more than 20 times a day. Smiling reduces stress hormone levels and increases endorphin levels which enhance mood. WaterWayBabies is a happy intervention – meant to be fun and make both your child and you SMILE.

First half of 2012

I am proud to report that orders for WaterWayBabies products has doubled each year since I started this business in January 2008. Thus far, it looks like business will triple and perhaps quadruple in 2012. Thank you to everyone who continues to help spread the word! Your efforts allow me to spend a minimum on advertising and keep product costs low.

WWB is now in 39 countries in addition to the US. So far this year, new orders have been shipped to customers in Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Ireland, and Tunisia! Mainstays are the UK and Australia and of course the US. The types of disorders served has grown as well to include spina bifida, Angelman’s syndrome, Tay Sachs, Dandy Walker, AMC/AMD, PMG, PKS, Trisomies, congenital CMV, and several obscure, rare genetic disorders. Blogs and FB posts of children using the WWB neck ring helps other parents learn about WaterWayBabies and the benefits of warm water therapy. Thank you to those of you who do so!

Soon, I will be back at the annual SMA Research and Family Convention – held this year in Minneapolis. While there, I look forward to meeting with therapists from Gillette Children’s Hospital and some of my many special MN and WI clientele. I am so excited! There is nothing like putting a face with a name and also getting to see ‘my’ special Waterway kids. Hopefully, we will arrange a group swim at the conference hotel pool, full of Waterway babies and kids.

Remember – you can always contact me directly at nancy@waterwaybabies.com, if you have questions before placing an order. Please remember to friend me on Facebook – Nancy Higgs/Waterwaybabies – and tag me when you post those photos and videos!

Meanwhile, stay tuned. 🙂

Newly designed size LARGE neck ring

The WaterWayBabies neck ring for older kids and teens was revamped in the Summer 2011 to better accommodate the child who grows taller but due to tonal issues, has a smaller neck circumference. The neck hole now measures about 13 inches (down from 14+) while the overall dimension of the neck ring remains as big as before…giving extra air capacity to support more body weight and also to help balance kids with high tone-spasticity head-throwing behavior. The Large neck ring has been selling well for almost a year now. It fits from about 40 lbs body weight and up. Recently, it was used successfully on a 19 yr old male with quad CP who reportedly weighs about 125 lbs. He could move around in the pool on his own and the neck ring fully supported him even when his feet could not touch the bottom of the pool.

If you order this neck ring for your older, larger teen or young adult, please, please take precaution and make sure it will fully support your teen before letting them venture into the deep end of a pool without adequate human support (i.e., at least 2 persons). Thank you!

By late June 2012, the LARGE neck ring will be available in orange (unisex) without the dolphin logo…for the more mature customer.

Spring-Summer 2011

WaterWayBabies has experienced tremendous growth this year! Orders continue to increase each month with a huge upsurge during the spring and summer months as everyone gets ready for pool time. One advantage to the WWB neck ring is that – because it is inflatable – it folds up easy for vacation packing. This is also an advantage as more and more therapists request using the neck ring and parents carry it back and forth b/t home and therapy pool. If you use the neck ring already, but have not shared with your PT or OT, please do! They can help spread the word to other clients.

Spring 2011, WWB attended the annual family conference in Wisconsin for 0-6yrs blind/VI. I gave a presentation to families and staff. And afterward, parents who were interested purchased neck rings and we had a group swim in the hotel pool with about 10 WaterWay babies and kids! They keep a demo pool and neck ring at their on-campus resource center in Janesville so that parents can view it and check it out for trial use before purchase.

Next came the Dupont PT Conference in Wilmington, DE. This is a wonderful pediatric rehab hospital with family-centered care and a huge, fabulous therapy pool. I in-serviced the therapists on WaterWayBabies the day before having a vendor booth at their annual conference. Dupont purchased a ring of each size to both use in their in-patient and outpatient aquatic therapy – and which they also graciously allow and invite parents to try with their child before purchase. I get many referrals from Dupont that come from families living across DE, NJ, and PA.

Unfortunately, due to my own illness, I had to cancel on the FSMA conference, held this year in Orlando. But the staff was kind enough to pass out my brochures. And I’ll be with them in Minneapolis next year for sure! See the Summer Newletter for an article I wrote about WaterWayBabies and your SMA child.

Late summer allowed a trip to southern California where I visited tlc4blind in Reseda, just north of LA. This is an amazing residential facility which also has an extensive outreach for therapeutic intervention with babies and young children who are blind or visually impaired. Aquatic therapy is especially beneficial to these children as they struggle to learn their place in space. The Center has a warm therapy pool and every Weds, they host a social swim for their moms and babies and preschoolers. I got to participate in this group swim and it was a delight! Imagine the enjoyment of swim and water play with other families in similar situations.

I also paid a visit to NAPA Center, a therapy facility located convenient to LAX so that families from all over the world can access them. The place is amazing! I was invited to in-service the staff and we plan future collaborations to combine water therapy with all the other interventions.

Somehow, in the midst of all this travel, I managed to keep up with orders, make a promotional video, begin work on a documentary, get WaterWayBabies trademarked, and re-design the neck ring for my bigger kid clients.

Whew! I love it. And just when I get tired, I get a boost from a parent or grandparent sharing their story of how WaterWayBabies is making a difference in their child’s life. Making my hard work all worth it. 🙂