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Swim Lab International
A blonde girl smiling as she does an arm exercise with a blue bungee rope held in front of her

A child’s perspective – how does it feel to come to Swim Lab International?

Hey, I’m Matilda.

I’ve been coming to Swim lab since I was 4 so about 8 years now.

I was a terror at the start, I had no confidence. If I could tell new kids anything it would be keep doing it, keep pushing yourself to do it and you’ll look at yourself at the end of the week and be like, “wow, I just did that”. In the end, you’ll feel so much stronger and you’ll look back and think it was all worth it.

The Swim Lab team are so nice and they’re going to make you feel safe but they’re going to make sure you get it done.

A girl watching her Swim Lab International therapist demonstrate an exercise with a bungee rope

I’ve met a lot of other kids which is really good for me personally because I haven’t met a lot of kids with disabilities (outside of Swim Lab). When I come here it’s a real community and it makes me feel really included, we’re all here to get stronger.

I feel like we support each other. There’s always someone waiting for their next session, you see them smiling, and feel like, yeah, we’re all going to enjoy this today. By the end of the day you feel really tired but a good night’s sleep clears it all up.

The actual swimming is fun to do. We do front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, we use magic sticks and dive sticks, ankle weights, and other equipment to enhance our technique, but not in a boring way.

We do lots of diving, normally at the end because it’s fun, sometimes we use dive sticks and try to get as many of them as we can.

Each session it’s something new because they want to look at what you can do, and what you can’t do, and then take what you can’t do, and make you able to do it.

A girl on a step machine with her pediatric therapist by her side

I’ve been going on the treadmill in my land sessions and using side-stepping, front-stepping, backward walking or practicing on the stair master. Sometimes we’ll walk around the garden doing different walks like high knees or giant steps, that’s really fun.

Last year I used Trexo and it was amazing. When you come out straight away you can feel the effect of it, I walked so much better when I came out of Trexo. I guess it helped me walk a bit straighter and helped me walk like a “typical person”. I like that you can see your steps and how much effort you were putting in and how much the machine is putting in.

I talk to them (the team) about what we’re doing, but you can just talk to them, they want you to enjoy the physio, not just to do it but to enjoy it. I love all of them.

I miss being at Swim Lab when I’m not here, it’s a laugh, and it’s not like typical physio where they just sit there and tell you what to do. They get you involved in it and make you want to do it. And where we do Swim Lab here in Lanzarote is amazing. Personally, the heat helps my legs a lot so when I come back to England I’m a lot stronger and have more energy than when I left.

I feel more positive here. With physio at home no one talks to you about it, they just sort of sit there and tell you you need to do this and that every day and you’ll be fine, you know, a few squats or whatever.

But when you come here it’s really interesting, they use equipment, they use different techniques, they use a lot of things to make it fun.

I’m the type of person who will get tired and feel like “I can’t do it anymore” but they push you. Yesterday, for example, Paul got me to do 8 laps of the pool, 4 front crawl and 4 backstroke and I thought “no, I can’t do that no way”, but then I did it and when I got out the pool I was like “yes, I did it” and you wake up and you feel so strong. It’s hard, but it builds back up into a lot of strength.

a blonde haired girl wearing pink goggle swimming front crawl in an outdoor pool

They also help with my pain management. They work on the areas that ache the most, for me, that’s behind my knees. We work on stretching it, building up my tolerance for walking, things like that. If I am in pain, I just have a little bit of Calpol and get a good night’s sleep, and by the morning I’m good.

The second to last day, I’d say that’s the hardest because you’re tired by then, but the last day you’re like “yes, it’s my last day, I’m going to power through this”. It’s a good feeling, to see how far you’ve come.

I go swimming every Wednesday but I think when I go back, mum and dad are going to start dropping me at a pool so I can do my laps. Swimming is really enjoyable for me so the fact that they’ve turned swimming into physio really helps me in general.

We set up a plan of what I’m going to do back home, which also helps. When you first get back you’re not as motivated, but then I feel like I want to do it so when I go back I can say “I did it all”. I feel like they celebrate with you, you have your own support crew here and I want to have that moment when I come back.

Lanzarote is amazing, you come here and you knock down your sessions and then you can go to the beach, you can walk around with your family, you can do what you want to do because you feel strong.

When I go in the sea I’m much more confident now, I go swimming in the deep with my dad looking for fish like diving around and mucking about with my sister it’s just really fun.

Swim lab is really inclusive, it makes you feel strong and it’s just amazing in general, I love it.

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