IT STARTED OUT as a session rendering my therapy training to provide in-water assessments for children. Ten sessions later, these children have graduated from the paracanoeing development programme.
The programme is an initiative by Canoeing Cares, supported by the Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) and Asian Women Welfare Association (AWWA) TEACH ME Services. The young participants have a wide range of condition including Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, Development Coordination Disorder and language disorders to name some.
But that did not stop them from being able to kayak 2km on Sunday!
Weekly sessions were held at The Paddle Lodge in MacRitchie Reservoir. Since the launch of the programme, the children have come a long way! Some of whom have upgraded from a 2-person sit-on-top kayak to paddling independently or even on a K1 paracanoe learning to incorporate the use of rudders (I’m not even at this level of canoeing!).
Minor activity modifications were beneficial. For children with reduced distal strength, simple adaptations like using non-slip grips (or in above photo) make tolerating a grasp over the paddles easier. Sometimes, all they require is a visual cue of where to properly place their grip – easily done with a brightly-coloured sticky tape. Paddles also come in different lengths and weight to accommodate children of different stature and proximal arm strength.
Sitting in a kayak can be fairly tiring on the core muscles, particularly in cases of diplegia. While some children would benefit from having supported sitting (in above photo), the actual sitting in a kayak itself for the duration of an hour serve as a good work-out to facilitate upright posture and improve trunkal control. Core muscles are activated when facilitated to rotate the trunk with each paddling stroke, or when attempting to get in/out of the kayak without falling over.
Getting the rhythm of the paddling right is tricky for children with developmental coordination disorder. What usually works is practicing strokes during land drills, and having verbal cues like “1,2” or “left, right” in water. Coupled with coordinating the alternate strokes for navigating straight/turns, they also need to rotate the paddle to properly catch water and thrust forwards. It takes good practice and perseverance!
I guess in an environment as big as MacRitchie (with the occasional terrapins popping by to say hello), it is so easy to get distracted. Being able to focus on improving their paddling is a major feat for most children. Which is why the session is usually conducted in sets of 30 strokes. At every set is an opportunity for them to rest and be cheeky; for instructors to correct techniques and get them ready for the next set.
The doing together as a group gives children the platform to make friends and instil proper social skills. For some of the older children, leading group warm-ups and cool-downs help to boost confidence by leaps.
I feel more than happy to make new (young) friends too!
It’s a lovely way to spend my weekends, and I look forward to the second batch of participants when the programme starts next semester! So very proud of this enthusiastic bunch!