Knowledge Database

Hydrotherapy treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder

Yael Yoshei - Occupational Therapist and Hydrotherapist, Coordinator of Hydrotherapy Studies at the Trump Institute,
Beit Issie Shapiro


What is attention deficit disorder?

Attention deficit disorder occurs among 3 – 10% of the population, the accepted estimate in the USA being around 5%. The diagnosis is much more common among males, with a 1:9 male to female ratio.

In fact, attention deficit and hyperactivity impulsivity disorder (ADHD) covers two fields:

  1. Attention deficit - “pure” attention deficit, known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
  2. Impulsive and hyperactive behavior- attention deficit disorder together with hyperactivity and impulsivity is known as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It is usual to think that the development of attention deficit disorder is not based on any single factor, but on a set of biological and psycho-social factors that shape the full syndrome. The basic disorder is organic, based on a small change in the structure and function of the brain.

The attention disorder, even if it appears similar in two children, is likely to be expressed by them completely differently, depending on their other qualities and on their surroundings.

Children or adults with attention deficit disorder have the ability to see many stimuli at the same time, and relate to them equally. They do not have the ability to isolate one stimulus and relate only to it, ignoring the other stimuli. Therefore attention disorder is a disorder that is very close to the child’s normal functioning, but at the same time is liable to cause considerable suffering both to the children themselves, and to those around them. This combination makes the disorder difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat.


The course of attention deficit disorder

Attention deficit disorder is expressed differently at different ages.

In early childhood, there are a few clear manifestations, among them the inability to acquire sleeping through the night until relatively late (around a year), motor agility, and starting to walk at a relatively young age. Among some of the children, it is already possible to see excessive mobility in early childhood.

The difficulties are revealed significantly at school age, and at this stage children begin to be referred to diagnostic and therapeutic frameworks. It is important to note that the attention deficit disorder does not “disappear” in adulthood, but its characteristics are likely to be manifested in a different way from the way in which it appears in childhood.


Treatment of attention deficit disorder

In light of the characteristics of the disorder, treatment must be multi-layered, and must deal simultaneously with the biological, psychological, and social aspects. Accordingly, treatment usually includes:

  1. Drug treatment
  2. Psychological-behavioral treatment
  3. Working with the child’s educational framework

The aim of the treatment is to accompany the child or adolescent, enable her/him to develop in the best possible way, with the least possible harm and side-effects, and help him discover his advantages and unique features as an benefit and not a defect.

To sum up, attention deficit disorder is most troublesome to the child and her/his family, but is on the fringe of the norm in terms of its characteristics. The disorder requires the earliest possible diagnosis for effective and multidisciplinary treatment, including drug, psychological and social therapy, with the accent on the importance of parent guidance, behavioral work, and working with schools.


The advantages of hydrotherapy treatment for children with attention deficit disorder

Hydrotherapy is defined as a treatment program held in the water, intended for a particular person in order to improve his or her functioning in all fields of life. The treatment is given by qualified therapists, in a heated pool designed especially for hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy can be part of the basket of treatment received by the child, aimed at improving the way the child functions in all areas of life – social, emotional, school, and so on.

How can children with attention deficit disorder be helped to cope with their difficulties through hydrotherapy?

The main difficulty of children with attention deficit disorder is, of course, focusing their attention on the task they are supposed to be performing. Because every stimulus is of equal weight for them, they find themselves focusing on what the teacher is saying, but also on what other children are saying, or on noises from outside. During the treatment, we work with the children on choosing a task and focusing on it, reducing the importance of other stimuli. For example: the child has to perform a task of diving in the water, taking out objects, and arranging them on the edge of the pool according to categories of color, shape, and so on. This is an action that is repeated a number of times. The child is surrounded by other stimuli in the pool – other swimmers, noises, splashing water, and so forth. The repetition of the action makes it easier for the child to focus on it, and each dive provides a few seconds of quiet that make it possible to refocus.

As a result of the gap between the children’s high level of capability and the results that they achieve in practice, they often feel a sense of frustration, and even guilt. The water activity is a wonderful opportunity to experience a feeling of success. For this purpose, it is important for the tasks during the treatment to be challenging, but achievable by the child – in other words, something that can be achieved with an effort, but not so much effort as to lead to frustration.

One of the difficulties frequently reported by parents is in connection with getting their children ready in the morning, arranging their school bags, and leaving the house. Each of these is a complex task requiring planning and working according to a sequence. During hydrotherapy, the child is given tasks of this kind in order to improve skills in this field. It is important to note that the activities are carried out in the form of an enjoyable game played in the water, so that the child practices over and over again, but without a sense of repetition, boredom or tiredness.

When the child’s swimming improves, he can be included in a small group of children of the same age. The aim of this group, beyond teaching swimming habits, is also to work on the skills of taking turns, dealing with losing, and the challenge of creating positive social interactions.

Children with attention deficit disorder tend to work in a very hasty way, without paying attention to details or to the quality of their work. During treatment, we take advantage of the strong sensory feedback provided by the water in order to encourage the children's self-control over their movements. We also define exactly what is success in the task, and what is required in order to achieve it, so as to encourage good work habits that include, among other things, self-supervision, attention to details, checking, and giving self-feedback with regard to the quality of implementation.




The definition of attention deficit disorder is taken from the material of Dr. Iris Manor

For further information, it is recommended to follow this link.  (Hebrew)


Research Articles & AbstractsComparison Of Hydrotherapy Treatment In A Pool With And Without Sensory Adaptation, For Toddlers With Developmental Disabilities
Professional ArticlesPartnership with Parents in Therapy: Application of the approach at the Hydrotherapy Center
Professional ArticlesPsychological / Emotional Therapy for Children and Adults with ADD and ADHD: The emotional and mental experience of people suffering from attention and concentration disorders and hyperactivity
  • Disabilities:

    Attention Deficit Disorder - ADD

  • Topics:

    Therapeutic Methods

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  • Audience:

    General public, Professionals

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