How to Retain and Teach Children with a Sensitive Temperament in Swim Lessons

Did you know that 15-20% of the children in your swim school have a sensitive  temperament type?

Shy boy on poolsideResearch indicates that about 20% of the children in your swim school will have the temperament trait of high sensitivity or sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) as it is known as in the scientific world.

These children are the most likely to postpone starting lessons or drop out at times of transition due to overwhelm. This session will give you valid scientific information about the trait and proven practical strategies to help you retain and teach children with a sensitive temperament type.

About the sensitive temperament type

A child with this trait is commonly referred to as a highly sensitive child or HSC (Aron, 1996). High sensitivity as defined by Dr Elaine Aron is not a disorder and not to be confused with Sensory Processing Dysfunction, Autism Spectrum Disorders or ADHD. Rather it is an innate, inherited, normal (although minority) temperament trait characterised by physical, social and emotional sensitivity.

HSCs are biologically wired to notice and process stimuli more thoroughly than others. The trait reflects the valid survival strategy to pause and reflect before acting. (Aron, 1991).

Such children tend to be bright, curious, conscientious, highly empathetic and deeply concerned for others, animals and worldly issues. They may present problematically as cautious, anxious, reluctant to participate, sensitive to sensory stimuli, emotionally intense.

Some people may see the highly sensitive child as fussy, shy, dramatic, too sensitive and in need of being “fixed”.

Thanks to the pioneering research and writing of Dr Elaine Aron we now understand that being highly sensitive is not a character flaw or a disorder, rather a unique and equally valid way of experiencing the environment that offers many distinct advantages in certain situations.

Highly sensitive children require skilled and responsive teaching and support to enable them to overcome challenging situations at the swim school and optimise their learning potential. Too many sensitive children end up dropping out of swim lessons at significant transition points, or postponing starting at all due to being overwhelmed at such pivotal times.

About the Presentation/Workshop

The presentation/workshop will give you the opportunity to develop new skills and strategies for your tool kit as a swim teacher or swim school staff member with regard to the highly sensitive child. Your increased knowledge and skill will also be of great benefit to parents of HSCs who themselves may be struggling to understand their sensitive child.

Topics covered during the session include

  • an overview of the scientific research behind the trait
  • a description of the everyday presentation of the trait and it’s commonly associated strengths and vulnerabilites
  • what the trait is not
  • unhelpful strategies that can exacerbate tricky situations
  • helpful strategies to address everyday challenges including the child’s reluctance to participate, difficulty coping with change and decision making, inability to self regulate strong emotions, overstimulation


Timing of the Presentation/Workshop

The duration of the session can be tailored to suit your swim school’s time availability, ranging from 90 mins to a full day. Longer sessions will provide more opportunity for interaction, case studies and problem solving.