Since 2001 Diveheart, a volunteer driven 501 (c)(3) not for profit organization based in Downers Grove, Illinois has been helping children, veterans and others with disabilities through zero gravity underwater.
Diveheart’s adaptive scuba program uses the weightless wonder of the water column to help those with physical as well as cognitive disabilities. Impressed by the nonprofit’s works, university medical centers around the country are working with Diveheart on scuba therapy research.
Early indications and anecdotal observations have shown that individuals with physical disabilities have benefited from having extended range of motion to increased latter integrity and pain relief while underwater. These benefits can last in some cases for days or weeks after their dives. Research from John Hopkins also indicates that 80% of PTSD symptoms can be alleviated during diving, if the individual can go to three atmospheres or 66 feet underwater.
In the case of autism, Diveheart participants with autism spectrum disorder were able to participate in the world’s first research on autism and scuba therapy. underwater, surface distractions and traditional triggers were eliminated while the ambient increase in pressure underwater was soothing, much like a weighted blanket or pressure vest.
The underwater environment also substituted for what many with autism experience in a sensory deprivation room.
Anecdotally, Diveheart instructors and staff have seen these benefits for years, but were reassured by many subsequent university medical center findings.
And Diveheart has found that individuals of all abilities can benefit from increase in confidence, independence and self-esteem that they gain after participating in the nonprofit’s scuba experience program or life changing scuba adventure trips.
Plus, the cool factor that comes with a Diveheart scuba experience is off the charts. After working with Diveheart, children, veterans and others with disabilities no longer self-identify as people with disabilities, but rather as scuba divers. This newfound confidence helps them focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t do. many participants take on other challenges in their lives that they might not have even thought of before.
In addition to continuing to grow adaptive scuba experiences, training and trips around the world, Diveheart has many future goals. One is to increase the volume of scuba therapy research with university medical centers and others around the world.
Specifically, a short-term goal is to work with physical, occupational therapists and rehabilitation doctors to develop an underwater therapy program that brings much of what therapists do with patients at the surface to an underwater environment in swimming pools.
Another important goal to build a deep warm water therapy pool so that the benefits of scuba therapy and scuba therapy research seen in open water environments can be replicated in a warm, confined deep water environment.
Diveheart is looking for partners in the medical and therapeutic fields to help achieve these and other goals in the area of scuba therapy.
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