Shawn Tomlinson at the STA Conference 2016

Shawn Tomlinson was invited to attend this years’ annual STA conference as a guest speaker in her capacity as a Birthlight Aquatics Tutor.  Addressing a receptive audience of teachers and practitioners from a wide and varied skill set, Shawn spoke passionately about the Birthlight holistic approach to Baby Swimming.

In the presentation, Shawn explained the need to foster collaboration between the Teacher, Parent and Child, to develop a triad of learning in our classes. In particular discussing how ‘Attunement’ is one such channel in this process.  It was clearly expressed, how as teachers we can assist the parent to become aware of the child’s experience in the water, to react effectively to their emotional responses.  By educating the parent, to read and act appropriately to their child’s cues and behaviour, we help to develop a successful dialogue between the pair.  Great emphasis was placed on the need to obtain the child’s consent to any activity during our classes and to move away from the ‘conditional’ type practice that may exist outside of the Birthlight family.

Reference was also drawn to the need to seek knowledge from the parent as to their own birth experience from conception to post birth, highlighting the importance of considering any trauma that may have occurred during this precious journey.  Shawn, spoke eloquently about the physical implications of trauma on a child’s neural capabilities and offered some examples of how this is manifested in the water.  For many teachers outside the Birthlight community, this perhaps has not previously been a consideration, however with the new partnership with the Swimming Teacher’s Association; new understanding of this important issue can now be brought to a wider audience.  The Birthlight philosophy of creating harmonious relationships during classes and beyond was continually offered as a basic premise within the Baby Swimming industry.  

Our Baby and Pre-School classes are perfect environments to elicit connections between the parent and child, but they also allow for the development of community as Shawn highlighted during her talk.  The bringing together of what sometimes can be a diverse group of parents and children using water as a medium , was raised as a point for further reflection amongst the audience.  Once again, very practical suggestions were put forward, to enhance or modify some teaching practices, such as slowing down the pace of the class, to aid consolidation of the learning objective.  Allowing more time for the group to come together in certain practices, creating space for communication and the forging relationships at the same time.

Shawn throughout the presentation expressed the view that we are indeed a very privileged group of individuals who have chosen to become facilitators in a wonderful environment.  That we as teachers, have at our disposal, many tools to generate a holistic experience, for our parents and their children during our lessons.  However, again it was stressed that we must also take responsibility to continue with own ‘Learning’ journey to honour those that choose to swim with us.

Overall, Shawn brought the inspirational Birthlight practices and teachings to an interested group of educators, who engaged during the last minutes with questions regarding the topics raised on this occasion.  It was a fantastic opportunity for the Birthlight method to gain more followers within the Aquatic profession and beyond.

Julie Kamara, Birthlight Baby Swimming Teacher
Funky Fish Swim School

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