Web platform stories

Here are published stories written by people supporting the sport activities of people with disabilities.


We will explain the role of empathy in working with people with disabilities through the story of a volunteer learning to swim with individuals with disabilities using the Halliwick method: "I had never really thought about empathy, about how other people feel in certain situations. That is until I participated in a swimming festival in Rijeka. I was invited to take part in an empathy test. First, Jasna Lulić Drenjak, a kinesiology professor, told us to swim using only our legs, then only our arms. That wasn't difficult. After that, she asked us to swim with our eyes closed. That felt strange. And then came swimming with only one arm and one leg at the bottom. It was then that I realized I was trying to learn how to swim while simulating the challenges that people with certain disabilities face, without ever attempting to understand those challenges. It became clear to me that without 'walking in someone else's shoes,' I couldn't effectively teach my students how to swim.

Empathy test Empathy test

Suddenly, I started reflecting on various events in my life. Why did I judge certain people and situations in a certain way? Why was I sometimes angry at my parents' actions, only to realize now that I was mistaken? If I had tried to understand the people around me, it would have likely been easier for me, and I would have had a more fulfilling life. And not just me, but also the loved ones around me."

Empathy plays a crucial role in working with individuals with disabilities as it allows us to understand their experiences, challenges, and emotions. By putting ourselves in their shoes, we can develop a deeper connection and provide more effective support and guidance.

Monitor what is going on in pool

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Swimming is an extremely beneficial sport, especially for people with disabilities. However, at the same time, it can be dangerous, especially for non-swimmers. That's why swimming instructors must constantly watch over their students. I remember that after the class, we took all the participants to a small pool to play a bit. The pool had a shallow and a deep end. In the deep end, the swimming instructor was playing with the swimmers, while I stood outside the pool around the middle. I noticed a girl with Down syndrome who hadn't learned to swim yet approaching the deep end. I thought she might try to enter the deeper part, so I kept a close eye on her. Soon, she attempted to enter and immediately lost her footing. I jumped and caught her so that she didn't get scared. Luckily, I noticed what was happening in time. People teaching non-swimmers, especially individuals with disabilities, must be extremely cautious and constantly monitor what is happening, especially towards the end of the session when concentration tends to decrease.

Swimming and Mathematics

While teaching individuals with disabilities, I came up with the idea of incorporating basic mathematical operations alongside swimming. We created wooden tiles with numbers and symbols for basic operations such as +, -, ×, ÷, and =. We placed the tiles on one side of the pool and asked the students to swim across the pool and bring back a specific tile. In this way, we formed arithmetic expressions like 4 + 5 = and asked them to find the solution or bring the corresponding number. It was a fun and beneficial exercise for the participants. The only problem that arose was that towards the end of the class, they started throwing the tiles. It was clear that using tiles made of artificial materials would have been a better choice.

swimming and math swimming anf math

You have to be prepared

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At the swimming pool, you have to be prepared. Once, I worked with a person who has Down syndrome. He loved swimming and competing. He competed with another swimmer on a very short distance, maybe around 5 meters. They swam that distance several times. Suddenly, he struggled and started breathing heavily. I didn't know what to do. Fortunately, there was a coach next to us in the pool who helped him. Later, trainer told me that the this person had only one lung and needed to be careful and exercise moderately. It was a valuable lesson for me. It is important to have a good understanding of the people you are working with and adapt the activities in the pool accordingly.

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