Aquatic physical and occupational therapy for children. Pediatric therapies at TMC for Children in Tucson

Aqua Kids – Splashing good fun and therapy in one


10 little Aqua Kids
Sat on the ledge, they did
Waiting to jump into the pool
Before they could make a splash
They all held up their hands
And then they counted…
One…Two…Three!Brian Gracy engages a child in aquatic therapy at TMC for Children's Aqua Kids

There is a huge splash and then giggles, lots and lots of giggling as parents and children begin their Aqua Kids therapy session.

It’s Wednesday evening at Tucson Orthopaedic Institute’s pool and TMC for Children’s Aqua Kids is positively bubbling with ten children and their moms and dads. They’re throwing balls, climbing in and out of the pool, they’re swirling in an inner tube and playing with an improvised slide. They’re having fun.The children are also receiving all kinds of benefits from this kind of aqua therapy as Brian Gracy PT shares.

Aqua Kids was started in 1999 by a physical therapist Charter Rushdie. Originally, the goal was mostly to bring together parents and children of all ages into a warm-water pool. They all could engage socially. And, with the warmth of the pool and buoyancy of the water, children whose movements on land may be restricted have more freedom.

Physical therapist Brian Gracey has been with the program since 2001 and, with Shannon Murphy, has been part of the development into a more structured program. The focus is still on having fun, but today it incorporates occupational and speech therapy, too. And each week the therapists explore a new theme. The pool is a fun place for children to discover mobility, strengthen muscles, improve coordination and learn water safety skills. Interaction among the children is fostered through group activities.

Brian explains that the original funding came from The Ara Parseghian Medical FoundationToday, funding from the community via Children’s Miracle Network and Tucson Foundation, along with the generosity of Tucson Orthopaedic Institute to fund the eight-week sessions that children come from all over Tucson to attend. Families pay just $20 for the eight-week session and due to demand are limited to two sessions. Families are referred by schools, by the state, by TMC for Children’s own Pediatric Therapies, physicians, and the Blake Foundation. The children’s diagnoses are as diverse as the children themselves, each presenting challenges to be overcome through therapy, whether it’s a child who is sensory defensive and can’t bare tags or differing textures, or a child who has low muscle tone.


The pool is filled with the sound of joyful four and under singing. (The other session this week works with older children) One mom watching her husband and child shares that in just four weeks Aqua Kids has made a difference. Joyful to see her child climb out of the pool for the first time ever, she shares the practical applications beyond the pool, her daughter is now able to get in and out of the car and her confidence is building. Even the little girl’s speech has improved. Simple tasks, simple but important.The time of the session is also important. Another parent explains that the after-work scheduling has meant that her partner is able to join the therapy session and they are both able to support their child’s therapies goals at home with greater understanding.

The children, parents and Brian are singing their goodbye song. Happy, but exhausted the moms and dads stream out to the changing rooms where the happy chatter switches easily between the specific progress their children are making to the more general conversations all parents have.Your generous contributions to the Children’s Miracle Network funds in part the important work that Aqua Kids accomplishes with our community’s children. Thank you.