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When kids with special needs get their feet in the water



“These special children have not touched water in a swimming pool. Through this activity, they become all the more confident and they have real fun which help them improve.” — Roswitha Prohaska, President of Austria Society for Hyperbaric Medicine -


When Nasser al Sawahy, a 14-year-old mentally-retarded boy was asked to dive in water by Tariq al Khabori of ‘Oman Divers’, the boy was literally stunned. He has never ventured into a swimming pool or a sea before, dissuaded by his elders who were worried about his disability.

But when he got the encouragement from one of the team members of Oman Disabled Divers Association also known as ‘Oman Divers’, Nasser was excited beyond words.

On Sunday, April 16, Nasser and 34 other Omani children with special abilities — aged between 6 to 15 — were given an opportunity to dive, swim and snorkel in the waters of Marina Bander Rowdha as part of the 3-day-long 15th Diving Challenge organised by the Oman Divers.

Held under the patronage of Sayyid Nasser al Busaidy and headed by Tariq al Khabori, the fun-filled event was a success due to the support from the International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD) and World Organisation of Scuba Diving (WOSD) and in partnership with specialists from Austrian and German Societies for Hyperbaric Medicine.

The children who were part of the event were suffering from either autism, cerebral palsy, or those with intellectual disability, blind, physically challenged or amputees.

Roswitha Prohaska, president of Austria Society for Hyperbaric Medicine said that the swimming and diving experience allows the children to become more confident improving their self-esteem on the process.

“These special children have not touched water in a swimming pool. Through this activity, they become all the more confident and they have real fun which help them improve,” she said.

“Water sports including diving, snorkeling and swimming can help their muscles relax. These activities provide great medical assistance which will have a great impact on their health,” she added.

She also said that water sports help the children orient themselves with the rest of the world.

Gerard Oijnhausen from IAHD said that more local instructors can contribute to the various associations for specially-abled children. He said that they have something to contribute in allowing these children to experience normal lives.

“My role here in Oman is to help these handicapped children, train them in water, teach snorkeling and diving. If more Omani instructors are there to provide training and impart other motivational lessons on a regular basis, the difference will be mammoth,” he said.

Qadham al Shabibi, Hamed al Mashaiki, Nasser al Zadjali, three of the children who took part in the event selected by the trainers to have the one-of-a-kind opportunity in water show contentment. They were screaming for joy and were happily yelling on and off water in their diving gear.

“We are encouraging these children to enjoy all sorts of water activities and make them feel that they are not short of anything but they can do some things better than others do,” said Tariq al Khabori.

“No diver or instructor can train a disabled child in water unless he or she is certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Otherwise, the attempt would be a crime,” Tariq, who has three-decades expertise in helping the disabled dive, shared.

All the diving and swimming sessions were supervised by an expert panel of medics flown in from Vienna and Germany.

Meanwhile, Dr Wilhelm Welslau, Ex-President of German Society for Hyperbaric Medicine highlighted the importance of training the trainer for sustainable development of disabled diving in the country.

“They need both mental and physical support while in water and having sufficient number of diving instructors is a great step in terms of achieving self-sufficiency and on the other hand, helping tourism in an indirect way,” he said.

The experts have earlier delivered an introductory lecture on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) at the Oman ENT Society. HBOT is a medical treatment which enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100 per cent oxygen in a body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide variety of treatments usually as a part of an overall medical care plan.

The 15th Diving Challenge was held in different parts of the country such as Sur, Salalah, Nizwa, Musandam and others.

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