The Halliwick Concept

Original Editor - Karolina Malik

Top Contributors - Karolina Milak and Kim Jackson  


The Halliwick Concept was developed by the swimming instructor and engineer of hydromechanics James McMillan MBE and his wife Phyl McMillan, MBE in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The International Halliwick Association (IHA) defines the Halliwick Concept as "an approach to teaching all people, in particular, focussing on those with physical and/or learning difficulties, to participate in water activities, to move independently in water, and to swim. [1]


The Concept is based on hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, and body dynamics. The main goal is to encourage participation in water activities, to encourage independent movement, to teach swimming. The concept combines the area of mental and physical adaptation to water, relaxation, breathing control, balance, and the acquisition of basic motor skills in the water. The Haillwick concept is based on the following: introduction to water, motor learning, holistic learning, awareness of abilities and achievements in water instead of disability on land, improving the quality of life, integrating children and people with and those without disabilities.[2][3]

Ten Point Programme

The concept is implemented according to a ten-point program that is the basis of the Halliwick Concept. Those ten points follow a logical sequence of progress in water, from initial sensorimotor experiences in the aquatic environment to master the elements of the art of swimming.[1]

1. Mental Adjustment

During this stage, the swimmer must learn to respond appropriately to the water, and its situations or tasks also need to master breath control which is a crucial step in this program. Mental adjustment enables swimmers to react independently and appropriately during activities in the water.[2]

2. Disengagement

This process allows the swimmer to become more physically and mentally independent in the water. Instructors help swimmers to become more independent by ensuring they only offer the support that is needed and work towards reducing this support and their verbal instructions to the swimmer.[3]

3. Transversal Rotation Control (formally Vertical Rotation)

Transversal Rotation Control is the ability to control movements around the frontal-transverse axis of the body. It enables swimmers to be in the vertical position, to lean forward and blow water bubbles, or to maintain a standing position without losing balance.[2][3]

4. Sagittal Rotation Control

Sagittal Rotation is the rotational movement around an axis passing from the front to the back of the body. This rotation is involved when walking sideways in the water or just maintaining an upright position with turbulent water on one side.[1]

5. Longitudinal Rotation Control

Longitudinal Rotation is the rotational movement around an axis passing from the head down to the feet. This rotation allows swimmers in the vertical position to turn around on the spot or enables swimmers to lie on back in the water in the horizontal position and rolling over. A swimmer needs to learn rotating through longitudinal rotation to achieve a safe breathing position on their back and be able to stay in this position.[3]

6. Combined Rotation Control

Combined Rotation Control allows the swimmer to control any combinations of the above rotations in one fluid movement. For swimmers with poor breath control, these rotation is crucial. If a swimmer is falling forwards from a standing position swimmer can rotate the head, by doing that swimmer creates a combined rotation and avoids putting face directly in the water. For advanced swimmers, Combined Rotation Control is needed to perform tumble turns.[1]

7. Upthrust

Upthrust is a property of water that allows the swimmer to float in the water. It is also called ˝mental inversion˝ because the swimmer needs to reverse their thinking and accept they will float not sink in the water. The instructor can use activities such as diving down to retrieve objects to help swimmers become aware of this effect of water.[2][3]

8.Balance in Stillness

Balance in Stillness is when a swimmer can maintain floating in the water without excessive movements. It depends on both physical and mental balance control. When a swimmer learns these skill he can perform other tasks in water more easily.[1][2]

9. Turbulent Gliding

Turbulent Gliding is when the instructor moves a floating swimmer through the water without any physical contact by creating turbulence under the swimmer´s shoulders as he or she moves backward. While the instructor does that swimmer is required to control unwanted rotations without making any propulsive movement[1][2]

10. Simple Progression and Basic Swimming Stroke

This is the development of simple propulsive movements made by the swimmer to a Basic swimming stroke. Basic swimming stroke is when the swimmer is lying on ack and brings both arms low over the water to shoulder level and then brings arms back to the side creating propulsion.[2]

Through these points, the goals of the program in the water are achieved, which are: improvement of breathing control, rhythmic coordination of movements, sensory integrations, body awareness, independence in the activities in daily life, improvement of the general physical fitness and health, self-esteem and interpersonal communication, and abilities to create and participate in the game. Water as a medium provides children with freedom of movement, greater self-confidence, and satisfaction. Haillwick concept is a great method to teach swimming through games and various activities the main idea is to make swimmers happy and adapt to aquatic activities it is a great method to consider when it comes to creating a therapy approach to children with disabilities.[1][3][4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Gresswell, A., & Maes, J. P. (2000). Principles of Halliwick and its application for children and adults with neurological conditions. HACP Study Day.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Gresswell, A. (2015). The Halliwick Concept: an approach to teaching swimming. Palaestra29(1), 27-32.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Garcia, M. K., Joares, E. C., Silva, M. A., Bissolotti, R. R., Oliveira, S., & Battistella, L. R. (2012). The Halliwick Concept, inclusion and participation through aquatic functional activities. CEP4116, 030.
  4. Vaščáková, T., Kudláček, M., & Barrett, U. (2015). Halliwick Concept of Swimming and its Influence on Motoric Competencies of Children with Severe Disabilities. European Journal of Adapted Physical Activity8(2).