Monday, November 26, 2018

Dads find Snoezelen pool a relaxing place to share ideas

Photos and story by Louise Kinross

Lewis Tolensky has been taking his son Seth swimming at Holland Bloorview’s Snoezelen pool since he was one.

When the lights are dimmed, the small, heated therapy pool becomes a soothing environment where large balls bob in the water and change colour, a kaleidoscope of butterflies is projected on the wall, and classical music plays.

Lewis is part of an informal group of dads who bring their kids at the same time.

“They used to come at different times, but then they all ended up booking the same time spot,” says Lifeguard Michaela Jones. “Conversations sparked about sports and what’s happening at home and resources for their kids.”

“It makes you feel like you’re part of a little community,” Lewis says. “We all have different situations, but there’s a lot of shared experience you can learn from. School is always a big topic. But we don’t just talk about disability. We talk about football and the news of the day and politics. It feels very normal and natural and nice to connect with them.”

The dads’ group formed organically as the fathers got to know each other. “We bounce ideas off each other in terms of how we handle certain scenarios,” says Pablo Pommells. He’s been bringing his nine-year-old daughter Ayla, who has autism, since she was two.

“A dad might have a question about sleeping, or about using a certain product,” Pablo says. “It’s nice to know that others can relate.

“A lot of fathers don’t really engage with their children with disabilities—that’s why there’s a high divorce rate. It’s important to put it out there to fathers that it’s okay to have questions and doubts about your child, and you should never deny things. Everybody has something to contribute.”

Holland Bloorview’s Snoezelen pool and room are open to children and adults with any type of disability. You don’t need to be a Holland Bloorview client to access the pool.

A 45-minute session costs $14.37 for parent and child.

Lewis says the accessibility of the pool becomes more important as Seth, who is nine, grows. “It’s a comfortable place where it’s easy to transfer Seth onto the shower chair and into the pool and the warm temperature combines for a great experience for him and for me,” Lewis says. “As Seth gets bigger, going everywhere else gets more complicated, but Bloorview stays the same.”

You can register
online or e-mail Snoezelen Coordinator Lorraine Thomas at Winter registration opens at 9:30 a.m. this Thursday, Nov. 29.