Health & Aging: Special Needs Children and Swimming

drpool-med-bookSwimming pools present a severe danger for children of all ages. Those who live with special needs are especially at risk of injury or death when it comes to a swimming pool, which is why it is important to teach swimming skills and techniques. But learning to swim has several other benefits for special needs children besides safety.

  1. Dangers for Children
  2. Benefits of Learning to Swim
  3. Teaching Swimming to Special Needs Kids

bluecrossDangers for Children

Swimming pools can be dangerous for children, regardless of the age. It is important to make it a priority to teach and instill swimming techniques at an early age. Swimming pool accidents are common in children because they are untrained and they do not have enough experience with swimming or floating about.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for young children aged 1 to 4, while also the fifth leading cause of accidental death for children of all ages. For every child under the age of 15 who succumbs to drowning, ten others will receive emergency department care for nonfatal injuries. These nonfatal injuries can include brain damage-related injury such as learning disability and loss of basic functions.

Water familiarity training and swimming lessons is the best way to prevent accidents, allowing children to be familiar around water and more comfortable swimming. A child of any age is ready for swim lessons, and can reduce their risk of drowning by up to 88%.

Children with intellectual challenges are at a greater risk of drowning, and is even more essential to teach basic skills of swimming. For perspective, drowning is the number 1 cause of death in children with autism. Why is this? Children with autism have a combination of three characteristics which can be fatal in swimming pools or any body of water. These traits are: the tendency to wander, a fascination with water and finally, a lack of an understanding or sense of danger.

Learning to swim is even more important for children with disabilities. In addition to learning to swim for safety purposes, there are other important aspects that swimming can provide or add to the life of any child. Swimming also allows a child to gather with other children and develop a social life, swimming allows children to become active and healthy, and of course, swimming lessons provide an understanding of the dangers of water and a purpose to prevent drowning.

bluecrossBenefits of Learning to Swim

The benefits from learning to swim are many – learning to relax in the water, to having a workout and exercising to develop muscle, balance and strength. Swimming has also been known to balance two brain hemispheres and aid physiological brain growth. It can be a challenge for children with disabilities to find a recreational activity that supports focus on a child’s ability and provides social interaction, but swimming provides both.

Resistance that is provided by water builds the muscle tone, the buoyancy reduces the body weight by removing 80% of the weight from the feet. Swimming also developed motor skills, promotes fitness and as mentioned, social interaction. Being in water can allow some children to feel independence that may not otherwise be found while participating in activities on land.

Children with disabilities can get intensive sensory stimulation from swimming pools, which other environments will not provide. Classes can build confidence, spatial awareness, motor coordination, control and fitness for children of all ages. They can learn about the space in and around the water by using reference points like ladders, surfaces and water levels.

Swimming pools can allow children to reduce the stresses that they are faced with. Swimming also boosts the mental skills of kids of any age. Swimming helps to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels and lower body fat while improving pulmonary function.

Interaction with others at the pool can build social skills and boost morale. Swimming is also unique in that it teaches individual improvement and also has a cohesive team environment.

bluecrossTeaching Swimming to Special Needs Kids

Teaching swimming to children with disabilities is important. Before jumping into it, decide on an effective program or approach and remember that patience is essential in any learn to swim program. Make sure that children feel comfortable getting into the water, and slowly coax them to acclimate to the water and learn the basics before teaching swimming strokes.

Before you teach swimming strokes, it is important to make sure a child has down the basic understanding leading up to the stroke. Basic techniques include moving about on the surface, holding breath underwater, blowing bubbles and floating. Learning the basics can take many lessons, sometimes many swim seasons. Be patient.

Special needs children need individualized attention. Especially because swimming is a new experience for most special needs kids, they tend to be reluctant or hesitant to get in the water. Work with them at their speed and be patient. Children with a disability should always have an instructor or spotter in the pool; within arm’s reach at all times.

Some children can benefit from the use of equipment when learning to swim. USCG Life Vests can be used to help increase safety in children with motor disorders. Kickboards, pool noodles and other floatation devices can be useful. Make sure they are properly dressed in a bathing suit and offer them goggles or a mask. Plan to make it fun to alleviate the initial fear that they may experience when first encountering a pool.

It is essential that lessons are consistent. Many children who have special needs thrive with specific predictable routines in their everyday lives. Children may benefit from visual cues such as demonstrations or diagrams. These can be more helpful than verbal instructions for many children.

The most important things you can do is to teach basic floatation and motoring techniques and to make the water a fun place to be, so the children feel comfortable and confident around water. All children need to learn these basic swimming skills; it is not innate knowledge. Remember to be patient, and we’ll soon have another safe swimmer!

Get your Swim On, America!

Dr. Pool


[1] “Stay Safe In and Around Swimming Pools.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 16 Aug. 2011. Web.

[2] “” Swimming: A Life-saving Skill. Web.

[3] “Water Therapy for Children with Special Needs.” Water Therapy for Children with Special Needs. Web.

[4] “Kids with Special Needs.” Swimkids Kids with Special Needs Comments. Web.

[5] “Benefits of Swimming for Children With Learning Difficulties.” 17 Aug. 2010. Web.

[6] “” Teaching Special Needs Kids to Swim. Web.


Inground Pool Ladder Owner’s Guide

girl-on-ladder-2Pool ladders and hand rails are an under-appreciated pool accessory. Not something you think about often.

Today we review the types of pool ladders, rails and steps available for inground pools, then we’ll cover pool ladder installation, and common ladder and rail repairs and maintenance.

Inground Pool Ladders

Inground pool ladders are usually a 3-step design, but there are 2-step and 4-step ladders for use in different depths.

They are constructed of stainless steel tubes, of 1.9″ diameter. The tubes are bent, drilled and given a high gloss chrome finish. Shipped un-assembled, pool ladders also include ladder treads, ladder bumpers and hardware (bolts and nuts) and escutcheon plates.

Ladders don’t include any deck anchor sockets, to secure the rail. These are installed separately using the standard 1.9″ OD anchor sockets used for inground pool ladders.

interfab-pool-ladder-sThere are two types of 3-step ladders, the first is with plastic treads and suitable for most residential pool environments. Holds 250 lbs and installs into your existing 1.9″ diameter deck sockets easily.

For commercial pools, our heavy duty pool ladder has stainless steel treads, 33% thicker steel tubes, and extra wide 22″ treads. Classic 3-bend rail design meets all NSF standards for public pools.

in-wall-pool-ladderThere is another type of pool ladder, known as the in-wall pool ladder, which uses 2-4 plastic recessed treads, set into the wall (concrete or vinyl pools), and Figure-4 Grab Rails which slide into anchor sockets mounted to a 8″ channel.

vinyl-recessed-wall-stepsThe in-wall pool ladder design is not often retrofitted to an existing pool, but could be installed to change the pool appearance or to replace standard ladders that won’t work easily with automatic covers or safety covers.

Inground Pool Rails

Hand Rails for inground pools are used to give a tired swimmer a helping hand when climbing out of a pool, but more importantly, they assist in a safe entry and exit of the pool.

interfab-3-bend-hand-railThere are two main types of rails, both with an elongated Figure 4 shape. Made by Inter-Fab, both rails are made of 304 stainless steel, .049″ wall thickness, with a standard 1.9″ tube diameter.

Our standard 3-bend stair and step rail is rated for residential use and can be mounted in the pool deck or in the top step for a pool or spa entry. Hand rail tubes mount into brass or aluminum sockets placed 8″ apart.

interfab-4-bend-hand-railOur cross braced 4-bend stair and step hand rail is also rated for residential, and is mounted into deck anchors set on 8″ centers. The additional bend dips the rail below deck level, makes exiting easier.

Inground Pool Steps

Pool ladders can be difficult to use for many people, and for this reason, in-pool steps are quite popular. If your pool was built without built-in steps, it’s a major job to retrofit them later.grand-entrance-step-for-inground-pool

Drop-in pool steps for inground pools solve this problem in an affordable and sturdy pool step that can be positioned in many locations in the shallow end.

Normally used on above ground pools, there are two pool steps that are made for inground pools. The Grand Entrance step and the Curve Step System are easy to assemble and last for years.

curve-step-systemBoth steps are adjustable for the slope of the floor and snug up tight to a curved wall to floor transition. Use in shallow areas of 36-42″ depth. Fill the ballasts with sand or pebbles to hold step in place.

Inground Pool Ladder Installation

20in-steel-channelIn ground pool ladders are secured into the deck into brass or aluminum anchor sockets, which are mounted on a steel 20″ channel, so they will set in concrete at the right distance apart and at the same level.

  1. Refer to the ladder spec sheet for measurements
  2. Mark the deck for cutting, double check measurements
  3. Cut the deck with a concrete saw, break up rubble
  4. Place anchors into deck, connect bonding wire to lug
  5. Tape the top of sockets, and pour concrete to the rim

Pool Ladder Repairs & Maintenance

Pool ladders don’t give much trouble. Pool ladder parts are all replaceable, with the exception of the rails.

male-ladder-bumperOver the years together, you may need to replace a broken ladder tread or missing stainless steel nuts. Ladder bumpers and escutcheon plates (trim rings) or anchor socket wedges may need replacement at some point.

Pool ladder repairs are all DIY friendly, and the only real maintenance is to replace worn treads or bumpers and tighten the bolts if a tread feels loose or wobbly. Keep your anchor sockets clean by flushing them out with a hose.

Pool Ladder Accessories

safety-pool-stepThe Safety Step Kit, by SR Smith replaces your existing thin ladder treads with 8″ wide super heavy duty resin box steps that touch the wall, to prevent getting caught behind the ladder. Kit also includes side rails that prevent side slippage, and block pool cleaners, too!

kreepy-ladder-guardIf you have an automatic pool cleaner roaming your pool surface, chances are at one time or another it’s going to get caught behind the pool ladder. Ladder Guards are made by Hayward, Kreepy, Polaris and Jandy – just for this purpose!

kool-grips-5Kool Grips are soft neoprene covers for pool hand rails and ladders. Fits snug around the hand rail, and zips tightly closed. Kool Grips keep your rail cool to the touch, no matter the temperature, and the non-slip surface gives a better grip for safe entry and exit.

johnny-hinge-for-pool-laddersA hinged pool ladder is useful when you have an automatic pool cover or a pool cleaner that gets stuck behind the ladder. With hinges, the ladder pulls up to a horizontal position.

sacrificial-zinc-anodeFor pools that use salt chlorinators, the salt can corrode shiny chrome surfaces like pool ladders and pool lights. Attach this zinc sacrificial anode to the ladder rail to protect metal parts.

~ That’s all Folks! Drop us a line if you have other questions about inground pool ladders!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor


The POOL MASTER on Animal Planet

the-pool-master-teamIn the past, pools have always been a tool to help us cool off on a hot day. Later, they grew into a luxury that we used to relax.

Nowadays, people buy pools for a number of different reasons from getting in shape to throwing better summer parties!

Animal Planet’s latest project focuses on British landscaper, Anthony Archer—Wills who will team up with Dave Duensing and Ed Kading to turn what they call “run-of-the-mill backyards” into extraordinary pools that are not only beautiful but also look very natural – most use natural filters, very few chemicals, and are naturally… green.
pool-master-pools-3After premiering last year, The Pool Master took viewers by storm making them wonder how on earth this team could turn such a disaster into such a masterpiece. On April 3rd, they premiered their second season to amazed viewers yet again.

Pool-Master-Anthony-Archer-WillsAnthony Archer-Wills, the man behind the designs, has been building pools since 1963. His focus is on “naturalistic freeform organic shapes” that bring you back to your childhood when you dove into lakes and cooled off in anything that held water in it. As Anthony states in his Pool Master biography, “The central mission is to emulate nature“.

Dave Duensing, brings Anthony’s sketches and visions to life. His job is to plan order and execute the mission, while also maintaining the client’s budget and schedule. The last man on the team is Ed Kading. Ed has worked with Anthony for years and has the task of excavation work, aka digging up the ground and moving around the huge rocks. All three men say the main reason they do the job and love it is because of the gratification of taking nothing and turning it into something astonishing.
pool-master-pools-1The show allows anyone to apply to be on the show. The few requirements that they do ask from applicants are that they were already planning to build a pool, they are available for shooting and construction throughout summer and fall 2015, and they have a budget somewhere in the range of $80K-$200K. They also ask that for any requirements that the applicant might have, such as a Jacuzzi or waterfall. The sky really is the limit with these guys and that budget. No design is ever the same and they work through any type of condition between bad weather to unmanageable rocks.
pool-master-pools-2While most of us don’t have the opportunity to be on such an incredible show or have the budget of the people on the show, it’s an awesome way to grab ideas on how to make your pool your own personal paradise. If nothing else, you will be mildly astonished at the finished pools on this Animal Planet program!

As the slogan goes “Animal Planet – Surprisingly Human”. Pool Master shows appear on Friday night at 9 pm on the Animal Planet Channel – check it out!

Dana Katz
InTheSwim Staff Blogger

THE POOL MASTER is produced for Animal Planet by Punch Drunk and Original Media


Stain Removal in a Plaster Pool

pool-cannonballSure, your inground swimming pool is a resort-like escape where you work on bronzing your skin poolside while children splash about on giant, inflatable alligators, and immature friends tirelessly scream, “CANNONBALL!

It’s also one giant chemistry beaker perpetually on the brink of bubbling over with green algae blooms or suddenly breaking out with colorful stains as your friends slowly back away from water and ask “Eeew, what is that stain? You must be doing something wrong with your pool.”

If you own a concrete or plaster swimming pool, or are about to become the proud owner of a plaster-surfaced pool, we have some pointers to help you keep it looking like paradise and not like a 20,000 gallon petri dish.

Plaster pool finishes are traditionally the most popular swimming pools dating all the way back to the very first backyard pools. Typically a mixture of cement and fine, crushed marble sand, otherwise known as marcite, it’s a durable, impact resistant surface.

plaster-pool-finishPerhaps best of all, they can be sculpted into almost any shape your budget can afford. Additionally, gunite pools are very sturdy and strong because of the steel framework.

However, the plaster finish on a gunite pool needs to be replaced about every 15 years and that can get quite pricey (over $5,000) for a surface that is a bit rough on the skin due to it’s natural, porous nature. Oh, yeah, about that porous surface…

Smoother surfaces, like vinyl or fiberglass, are less prone to stains because they do not lend themselves as easily to cozy little nooks and crannies for metals, oils, or organic debris to eventually coagulate into an unsightly, rash-like stain on your pool plaster.

Plaster pool surfaces create their own vicious cycle – because plaster is so porous, more cleaning is required to prevent algae growth, and the high alkalinity and pH of plaster requires frequent adding of acid to counteract the effect which in turn, of course, slowly deteriorates the plaster surfaces that you are trying so hard to keep clean – making them even more porous which makes them more susceptible to stains…You can see where this is going.

Let’s get on with it - how to remove stains in a plaster pool, and the best methods to prevent plaster pool staining.

Heavy metal is the enemy, and I am not referring to Iron Maiden or Slayer. I’m talking about the invisible metals dissolved in your pool water from sources like rain run-off, pool equipment, salt water pool systems or even your concrete pool deck surface. Bits of metal like screws or hair pins can make a nasty rust stain.

Natural Chemistry's Metal FreeA great product for removing metal from your pool is Metal-Free by Natural Chemistry. It is one of the strongest products available for sequestering metals. It works especially well on well water, is not affected by pH or temperature, and is All Natural.

sapphire-stuff-by-jacks-magicThe Sapphire Stuff by Jack’s Magic is another fantastic sequestering agent. It not only removes metals but also oils, soaps, cosmetics and other organic matter from your pool water.

pool-perfect-by-natural-chemistryFor oily stains at the waterline, or a bathtub ring from winterization water levels, use an enzyme product like Pool Perfect to consume oils, fats and other greasy pollutants that enter the water.

What’s that Stain?

It’s important to know what kinds of metals are creating the stains in your pool. Here’s a pool stain chart as a guide for metal stain identification in pools.

color-chart-for-metal-stains-in-poolsMetals are certainly not the only cause of stains in a plaster-surfaced swimming pool. Leaves, berries, bugs, sun tan oil, or even your water-loving dog can all contribute to staining. These types of stains can be cleaned with good old fashion elbow grease using a combination of a PoolStone and pool shock. Pouring a bit of pool shock directly onto a stain works similar to bleach and is ideal for plaster surfaces but a bit harsh for vinyl liners.

Stain EraserThe Stain Eraser is another great stain removal product that does not require the use of chemicals and is great for smaller stains and stains in tough corners. It’s designed to be mildly abrasive so it’s tough but not destructive to the plaster.

acid-magic-galFor extreme staining or serious algae blooms, plaster pools can be cleaned with an acid wash with muriatic acid, or the safer to use Acid Magic. Acid washing removes a thin layer of plaster, exposing bright white and unstained plaster underneath. Having your pool acid washed will remove most surface stains.

Finally, keep your pool water balanced, with good pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels. A pool that is out of balance can stain more easily, and makes stain removal difficult as well.

Removing Stains from a Plaster Pool

  • Granular pool shock for organic stains
  • Sequestering agents for metal stains
  • Stain Eraser or Pool Stone for mineral stains
  • Enzymes for oily, dirty stains
  • Acid Washing for all stains
  • Keep pool water balanced


Ryan Dornan
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Above Ground Pool Heaters

aboveground-pool-heatersHow to heat an aboveground pool – this is the question of the day.

There’s 3 ways to heat pool water – using solar heaters, electric heaters or gas pool heaters.

Instead of listing the pros and cons – let me ask a few questions:

How Much Heat do you Want to Add to the Pool?

This question is important, because the heat output varies by pool heater type. Gas heaters put in more BTU’s at a faster rate than most solar heaters or electric pool heat pumps.

Aquaquick-solarPRO-XD35-10°: A solar blanket or solar rings can add at least 5 degrees, and more on sunny pools. They are also very useful for heat retention. AquaQuick solar pool heaters can be hooked up in 10 minutes to boost the temperature for an afternoon swim.

above-ground-pool-solar-heater10-15°: 4’x20′ Solar Mats, laid out along the side of the pool, or mounted on a roof or rack, can raise a pool temperature by 15°, or more, depending on the number of panels installed. Although sun dependent, it costs exactly zero to operate.

50K-btu-heat-pump-for-aboveground-pools15-20°: A 50K BTU electric heat pump, can easily add 20 degrees during warm weather, but output slips when daily high temps are below 70°. Large solar panel arrays, covering an area equal to the size of the pool area, can add 20° of heat.

pentair-mastertemp-heater-for-aboveground-pools20-25°: A 125K BTU gas heater can add 25 degrees if needed, over several days time. Using a solar blanket is recommended to retain heat. A gas heater also has consistent heating, however they may need more maintenance than other heater types.

dirk-wardean-whats-the-questionWhat’s the Weather in Your Area?

Weather and Ambient temperature is also relevant and heat output for solar and electric heaters is somewhat dependent on the weather, whereas gas pool heaters work in any temperature, rain or shine.

If you only use the pool when it’s warm outside anyway – a weather dependent heater may not be a big concern for you, however solar and electric heated pools can lose a lot of heat after a few cool and rainy days.

dirk-wardean-whats-the-questionWhen do You Swim?

Solar and Electric pool heaters will have the pool the warmest in the afternoon. Especially if uncovered at night, morning swims can be quite cool in a solar or electric heated pool, but a gas heater can be set to kick on hours before, to have the pool ready for morning or mid day swims.

Are you a weekend pool warrior, or do you enjoy your pool during the weekdays as well? For a weekender, gas pool heaters allow you to turn up the heat on Friday and turn it back down on Sunday.

Gas pool heaters can add 1°-3° per hour, depending on their size. Heat pumps and solar heaters are not so fast; adding about 3°-12° per day, depending on heater size and weather conditions, so aren’t well suited for heating only on weekends.

dirk-wardean-whats-the-questionDo You Cover the Pool?

Another important consideration, especially for windy areas, or desert areas that get very cool at night. For solar or electric pool heaters, you may find the pool doesn’t get warm enough (to your liking) until 3pm or later.

Using a pool cover, either a solar blanket cover, a solid safety cover or automatic cover can reduce heat loss dramatically. If you cover the pool faithfully, some concern about heater size, weather and when you use the pool goes out the window, and heating costs are sharply reduced.

Sizing Pool Heaters for Above Ground Pools

Heater size is very relevant when comparing pool heaters. When oversized, a solar heater or heat pump can add just as much heat as an undersized gas pool heater.

sick-pool-heaterUndersized heaters are also less efficient, and because of increased operation time, can be expected to require more repairs than an oversized pool heater, which can add more heat in a shorter time period.

If your aboveground pool is very small, under 5000 gallons, you will find it easy to oversize your heater, and easier to heat with a solar pool heater. It’s also easier to use a cover on a smaller pool!

So then ~ let me ask you again; how much heat you want to add to the pool? Take a look at our new line-up this year for above ground pool heaters!

Brett Rotelli
InTheSwim Staff Blogger