When the Rijswijk day care centre for children with severe multiple disabilities (which is also supported by Dioraphte) was completed, its founder Maud Halkes was already predicting that before long, the school would have a swimming pool. And when the chairwoman of the board of directors of the KDC Aandachtslab has an idea in her head, it usually materialises. The therapeutic swimming pool was formally opened on 29 October 2021. ‘When the children first went into the water, I could see the joy on their faces. In fact, my daughter [herself a child with severe multiple disabilities, ed.] would ideally like to be in the pool all day.’
Halkes outlines why swimming is so important for children with severe multiple disabilities (SMD): ‘These children have to wear a body harness and are wheelchair bound, unable to walk. The buoyancy in the water provides an ideal environment to stretch and move, as well as helping to relax certain muscles (known as spasms), and to relieve the pressure on the joints, thus allowing the children to relax fully. Exercising in warm water also reduces pain, improves balance and stability, strengthens the body’s natural defences and enhances overall fitness’.
‘When the children first went into the water, I could see the joy on their faces. In fact, my daughter would ideally like to be in the pool all day.’Maud Halkes, founder
A major problem is the lack of any swimming water in the area in and around The Hague. Even when there is a swimming pool available, the water is often too cold for children with SMD. Furthermore, for them a bus journey is often so intensive that going for a swim after that is just too exhausting. A swimming pool in their own centre, with the required modifications, was found to be the best solution, although it was also the most costly. Halkes was able to raise the required 650,000 euros through fund-raising campaigns, funds and subsidies. Currently, the water in the nine-by-four-meter ‘Attention Pool’ is splashing around where the canteen used to be. ‘It is too early to comment fully on the physical progress of the children. However, I can already identify the social progress. There are some children who are barely approachable, but making contact with them in the water has proven so much easier.’