Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach Pediatric Rehabilitation Patients Take a Dive with the Handicapped Scuba Association

A Miller Children’s pediatric rehabilitation patient trades his wheelchair for scuba gear as he prepares to dive into the water.

Pediatric rehabilitation patients from Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach took a break from wheelchairs and therapies for a special scuba diving event. As part of a series of summer community re-integration programs to keep patients active, the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) and the Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at Miller Children’s created a unique program that teaches scuba diving to patients with various diagnoses, including spina bifida, traumatic brain injuries neuromuscular disorders and other diagnosis.

“The scuba event is an important activity because it gives kids the chance to take part in ‘normal’ activities like their peers,” says Mariana Sena, CTRS, recreational therapist, Miller Children’s. “This event helps build their self-esteem and you can see the confidence all over their faces once they get are able to master such simple things as putting their face in the water with a mask and snorkeling gear. It’s very humbling to be able to offer such an extraordinary program.”

Patients were taught by certified scuba instructors how to properly use a regulator, snorkeling gear, float with a scuba tank on their back and were guided through the various components of their scuba gear and its functions.

Parents were able to stand on deck and watch their children practice specific activities designed to help them learn to control their bodies with scuba gear on. Children also had the opportunity to dive to the bottom of the pool without any help from instructors.

“The scuba instructors are passionate and love working with our kids, and this is an event the kids look forward to every year,” says Sena. “We’re so thankful for the Handicapped Scuba Association and its instructors donating their time and efforts for such a memorable experience.”

This event is designed in part by the Pediatric Rehabilitation Program’s recreational therapy, which uses play, recreation and leisure activities and skills to improve physical, cognitive, social and emotional abilities of children and adolescents. Recreational therapists (RecTs) develop care plans that focus on the patient’s leisure time by providing a wide range of play and recreation opportunities during treatment sessions to facilitate independent functioning.