Although originally called a ‘Method’, the Halliwick Concept is more than just a means of teaching swimming. The term ‘Concept’ was later used to encompass all aspects of the swimmer’s development, physical, psychological and social. As James MacMillan (knowImage of Swimmersn as ‘Mac’) said,”the mind, the body and the spirit”. ‘Concept’ also reflects the dynamic nature of our work, developing as our knowledge increases and our experience widens.

Halliwick is based on principles of hydrostatics, hydrodynamics and kinesiology. It is an holistic approach, bringing together knowledge about: the water and the body; teaching and learning; motivation; challenge; activities, games and music; group dynamics; disability equality issues and swimming strokes.

Swimmers are taught on a one-to-one ratio until complete independence is achieved but each pair is a unit within a group activity so that the swimmer gains advantage of group work but also gaining from the constant attention of an individual instructor. No flotation aids are used so the swimmer is able to discover their own balanced position in the water by learning to deal with any problems of imbalance.

The structure of teaching is the 10-Point Programme.

Points 1 & 2 are Mental Adjustment, which includes breathing control and relaxation, and Disengagement, the process of becoming independent in the water. Both are points the swimmer has to deal with as each new skill is introduced.

The control of rotational forces are covered by points 3 to 6.

Then comes learning about Upthrust, Balance and Turbulent gliding (points 7 to 9).

And finally, Propulsion. Point 10 is a simple progression and a basic swimming stroke for someone who is learning in the water, whether they can swim independently or not, emphasising inclusion, participation and high expectations.

‘Swimmers’ learn to control their own balance in water, without flotation aids. This is achieved by working on a one-to-one basis with a helper who gives adjustable, minimal support.  Working in groups gives the ‘swimmer’ a chance to enhance learning as it improves motivation and allows ‘swimmers’ to learn from each other. The group situation allows opportunities for communication and socialising. Games are also used as a good way of learning through structured play and fun. Good communication between a ‘swimmer’ and helper is essential for many reasons, including the ‘swimmer’ being able to be involved in the learning process. Halliwick practitioners take into consideration different ways to help people maximise learning. This applies in teaching ‘swimmers’ with disabilities and also when teaching new instructors on courses.

Therapists working in the aquatic environment can use the 10-Point Programme of the Halliwick Concept and its philosophy in a therapeutic manner, promoting wellbeing in the physical structure and function of the body which will enhance motor-learning and functional independence. The individual’s quality of life is at the centre of the holistic approach to health used in the biopsychosocial model as used by the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) – (WHO 2001). The holistic Halliwick approach of teaching people to participate in water activities, to move independently in water and to swim, fits well within the framework of the ICF.  Therapists wishing to address particular limitations can use the Halliwick structure with specific attention to areas such as movement (including range, co-ordination and planning), strength, stamina, respiratory capacity, oral control, fitness and so on.  The water can also be a valuable place for sensory integration. Social skills, communication, learning ability, psychological well-being and self esteem can be developed through Halliwick sessions, especially when working in groups.
Working using Halliwick introduces a new environmental factor to work on movement and balance control strategies in a different way. The attributes of the aquatic environment, specifically the physical properties of water, can assist the individual in promoting his abilities in physical, emotional and social functioning (Harris, 1978; Adams& McCubbin,1991; Broach & Datillo, 1996; Hutzler et al, 1998; Cole & Becker, 2004; Getz, 2006).

The 10-Point Programme develops the patient’s ability to initiate and perform movements and activities which may be difficult to achieve on land.

Opportunities to practise movement in the aquatic environment may facilitate new patterns that increase the recognition and understanding of different concepts of motor learning, sensory processing and cognitive learning and develops the ability to organise movement patterns and control activities required in daily living. (MacKinnon, 1997; Bumin et al., 2003; Getz, 2006; Getz et al., 2007).

Swimming can be an important activity in promoting well-being throughout a person’s lifespan. As outlined previously, swimming as a therapeutic tool has an important role in improving and maintaining health.

The Halliwick Concept is an approach to teach people to participate in water activities, to move independently in water and to swim’. This is achieved through the Ten Point Programme. As well as being a very successful way of teaching swimming to anybody it also can be used in therapy.

The International Halliwick Association (IHA) is a charity organisation with the objectives of promoting and developing internationally the Halliwick Concept. For more details of the IHA go to the IHA website at If interested in attending a course, or organising a course, you can find details of Lecturers to contact on the ‘Courses and IHA Lecturers’ page of the IHA website.

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Click here for a full paper on the Halliwick Concept and the full 10-Point Programme