Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy as we publish part 2 in his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.
So here we are at Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt, and it is our first day of diving.
We have two students – Corey who is new to Deptherapy, and Keiron who is undertaking his RAID Master Rescue Course and has progressed from learning to dive with us. We also have three trainee divemasters: Tom Oates ‘Oatsie’, Tom Swarbrick ‘Swars’, and Michael. Each has progressed from OW diver with the charity.
As all our programme members are open about their mental and or physical challenges these are the challenges they face:
Corey is 20 years old and was involved in a horrendous car accident while he was training to be a soldier with the Royal Anglian Regiment. The accident resulted in his spine being broken at T1 and T4. He is now paraplegic, unable to walk and he has no sensation in his legs.
Keiron was in the Scots’ Guards and served two tours in Afghanistan. He has Chronic PTSD.
Oatsie was in the Scots Guards and served one tour in Afghanistan. He has Chronic Complex PTSD.
Swars was in the Royal Anglian Regiment and he served two tours of Afghanistan. He has survivor guilt and Chronic PTSD from his first tour, and on his second tour he was shot by a sniper, losing five pints of blood and his life was saved by the excellence of battlefield medics. That tour compounded his PTSD.
Oatsie and Swars are both Deptherapy Ambassadors.
Michael was in the Royal Engineers and he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Chronic PTSD. Michael is a Trustee of the charity and looks after Programme Member Liaison.
Every Deptherapy beneficiary has to undertake a ‘fit to dive’ medical with an HSE Approved Medical Examiner of Divers (AMED) or a Doctor who is a ‘Dive Referee’. A GP ‘sign off’ is not acceptable to Deptherapy as some conditions and medications are contraindicated to scuba diving.
After sorting out kit the whole team were required to undertake a Scuba Review as, with the exception of Michael and myself, none had been diving since last year.
Adaptive teaching requires a special mindset from instructors and divemasters. There are no experts in adaptive teaching, although some profess such expertise. Some, like myself, are very experienced in working with those who have a range of life-changing mental and or physical challenges, but we do not have all the answers. There are no “I know the answers” in adaptive teaching, every student is different, every student is an individual.
The huge danger is that ‘experts’ say I have already taught a paraplegic so teaching this paraplegic is the same; it is not!
The physical or psychological manifestation of the injury or illness is a mechanical issue, the skill is to see past the challenges and see the person you are working with – the real person.
Many have been living with their conditions for many years and have adapted to overcome the challenges that their injury or condition presents them with.
An example: Can you tie a neck tie using one hand? I bet not! I know two Deptherapy programme members who can do that and tie their shoelaces in the same way.
Your job, as an Instructor, is to allow the student to achieve the standards necessary for them to be certified as a diver. In Deptherapy we work to full mainstream certification; for us, the base is RAID Open Water Diver. We do not use the RAID Restricted Certifications of D1, D2, D3.
Veterans have a can-do mindset and very much want full certification and not a certification card that has the word ‘disabled’ on it. Do not look at what our beneficiaries achieve and think then that every person who wants to learn to dive and has a physical or mental challenge will apply themselves with such vigour. Veterans are used to ‘drills’ so skills are easy for them to learn and to master.
It’s important not be afraid to ask the student “This is what you have to do to achieve the required standard for a skill and ask how they might perform that skill.”
So, we prepared for the pool! Keiron is a known quantity for us, he is a good diver who had completed all his RAID on-line learning, quizzes and the final exam. Corey was new to us having qualified as a PADI Open Water diver on a trip to the Florida Keys with another charity last year.
Our intention was to put Corey through his RAID Advanced 35 Course. He had completed all the online learning, and passed the quizzes and exams. Corey is a lovely person; he has a great personality and a determination to succeed in everything he does. As a person, the whole team absolutely loved him.
When kitting up and about to complete a deep-water entry into the pool it became clear that Corey, who is a bright young man, had never carried out some of the skills to the standard required to be an Open Water Diver. We therefore decided to take him through the RAID OW 20 Confined Water dives with our TDMs Oatsie and Michael, who have excellent skill demonstration abilities, running the sessions under my close supervision.
While Oatsie and Michael worked with Corey on Day 1, Swars worked with Keiron whose instructor was Moudi, the Roots General Manager and a very experienced instructor, through the pool dives of the RAID Master Rescue Course.
For those with physical challenges such as paraplegia or missing limbs, weighting becomes of absolute importance. Paraplegics who have no sensation or movement in their legs swim with a leg down posture. If not balanced with correct weighting they swim underwater in an upright position and not horizontally. Corey assumed this upright position. In Deptherapy we use ‘Bright Weights’ that are attached to the BCD at chest level to help get the student in a horizontal position. Corey had never done a forward descent but had done ‘legs down’ descents and had only dived with support.
Michael and Oatsie did a tremendous job in building up Corey’s skills and confidence. Deptherapy has very high standards when it comes to qualifying divers and we insist on pushing boundaries. Because of the negative stance that many in the diving industry take about divers with disabilities, our expectation is that our students will exceed the required standards.
An Instructor who shows pity or sympathy for a disabled individual and allows them to qualify as divers when they clearly have not met the required standards firstly puts that student at risk, it puts their buddy at risk, and it damages the reputation of all those disabled divers across the world who have met the required standards.
Despite starting from a low base, our determination was by the end of the week to turn Corey into a more than competent RAID Open Water Diver capable of safely being an independent diver, diving with and being able to support a buddy if they required assistance.
Corey, being Corey, accepted the challenge and knew that he had a lot to do. It says a lot about this young man that he faced the challenge square on.
Keiron meanwhile had successfully navigated his way through his confined water dives.
A relaxing and positive evening followed where everyone got to know each other and to talk openly about their challenges and how they dealt with them.
Check back tomorrow as we move to our first day of Open Water training on the magnificent Roots’ House Reefs.
Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk
Should I Switch Scuba Diving Training Agencies For 2021? (Watch Video)
Thousands of Dive Instructors are out of work, due to Covid-19. Many will not return to scuba diving. And this has the dive training agencies very worried.
For the first time in my career, instead of the usual ‘don’t forget to re-new your membership!’ emails, the main Dive training agencies are aggressively pursuing dive instructors and trying to convince them that life will be better if they cross over to their agency.
I decided to pick up the phone and call around the different agencies to get their best offers. It didn’t go well….
Thanks for watching! D.S.D.O, James
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Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
For more information, visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk.
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