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Diving and Children: Responding to Individual Needs



PADI MSDT Maryse Dare continues her Scubaverse blog with part three about responding to individual needs…

Scuba diving is a wonderful activity with many therapeutic effects. However is it suitable for all children?

We are all used to signing off the medical certificate but what if there is something that isn’t covered in the magic tick list? The “behavioural” question is fairly open to interpretation so it may be that you have a further conversation with the parent and it is always important to be open and honest in conversation. The child may succeed in a very confined environment such as a pool, but what about in open water and more importantly, what about after certification?

There are a range of different needs that we have worked with. I am fortunate as I trained and worked as a teacher for twenty years, including working closely with children with additional needs. I am not, however, qualified to assess a child for a condition. This post, therefore, is based only on my experience.

We have worked with several children who are on the autistic spectrum. In only one case, we (the parent and instructor) have decided that diving is not for that child. There are a few children and parents who have decided that they enjoy the time in the pool and do not want to go into open water. And then we have several other children who are developing into superb divers and scuba diving may well be a significant part of their lives for years to come.

We have had to adapt our communication, although reflecting on this is never a bad thing for anyone. I recently worked with a child that took everything literally. If you reflect on instructor training, we were encouraged to link the dive experiences to other experiences. This can lead to confusion and I have found that this child responds well to just being told the diving instructions and to have them clear and bullet pointed. He needs to have everything told to him just once. When he started diving I was worried that he was not retaining any information but we recently did a refresher of all skills covered to date and he not only completed them, but could also gave me my original briefing verbatim. This led to further reflection; I need to be very careful about what I say!

I have dived, in the past, with a non-hearing adult. I do not sign, although if I knew BSL it may not have helped anyway as they were not British! However, through slow and careful speech she was able to lip read and we could agree on our hand signals. Underwater, our speech became equal; in fact she was at an advantage as she was far better at nonverbal communication.

We have also worked with children with behavioural issues. The limited attention span can be difficult to manage so we break up the learning into many small activities. In some cases we have found that their concentration in the water is greater than out of the water. We are waiting to see if these benefits start to spread beyond their diving. I have had two children whose behaviour and concentration means that we are not ready to move into open water yet. When we do, we will complete only one or two dives and they will not be signed off for their Scuba Diver until they have met the requirements and I feel comfortable that they will be safe to dive under supervision (which they would have to do anyway because of age restrictions). We will then move on with the second half of the open water dives.

With children we always start with a try dive. Through this we can decide if we can work safely with the child and if they can be safe in the water. If the child responds well then we start with the Seal Team so we are not certifying the child for diving independently in later years, which gives further time to assess the ability to dive independently. As PADI instructors we are required to work to standards but ultimately if a person cannot complete the final open water dive then they are not meeting the standards required to achieve full certification. I assume this applies to other training agencies too.

The most important thing is to ensure you’re not promising to certify a child. Too many people think that their pounds are paying for an open water card. That’s not the case; the money is paying for the usual level of tuition (and perhaps a bit more) given for a person to support them to reach certification. Certification is not guaranteed.

Being open to working with children with additional needs can be just about removing barriers. Scuba diving has amazing benefits, and by adapting what we do as professionals we can ensure we open it up to people who may benefit even more from diving than others. An added bonus for us as instructors is it makes us reflect on our own practice and teaching skills, and this can only help us too.

You can follow Maryse and her Dive Club / School at and

PADI MSDT Maryse runs Ocean Diver, a dive club and school on the borders of South London and Surrey. After many years of warm water diving, she is now a committed UK diver and particularly enjoys introducing people to the delights of the UK! Find out more at

Dive Training Blogs

Sidemount: Not just for Technical Divers



By Heather McCloskey

In the 1960’s, dry cave explorers in the UK became the first “sidemount divers” when they began clipping scuba cylinders to their caving harnesses as a means to cross sumps, or water-filled cave passages. Over the past 50 years, countless divers and equipment manufacturers have developed and refined sidemount diving and configurations through trial and error.

Today we see many technical divers in sidemount configuration and it remains especially popular with cave divers. There are clearly countless benefits of sidemount for technical diving, but did you know many of them cross over to recreational diving as well? Yep, that’s right: sidemount is not just for technical divers. In fact, I believe that everyone could benefit greatly from a technical sidemount course, even if they do not have an interest in technical diving.

Here’s why everyone should try sidemount diving:


I think it is important to constantly learn new things. If you’re looking for a course with the potential to truly challenge you, reframe the way you think about diving, and improve your fundamental skills tenfold, look no further than a technical sidemount course.

In addition to teaching you how to safely dive in a new configuration, a technical sidemount course is like boot camp for your diving fundamentals: buoyancy, trim, and propulsion.

Even if you have good buoyancy control going into the course, a good instructor will push you to fine tune it even further. This will force you to extend your awareness and control of where you are in the water at all times, even when being distracted by problems.

You’ll work on propulsion techniques and likely focus more on how you’re kicking than you ever have before. Your instructor will help you perfect your frog kicks and helicopter turns, show you how to backfin effectively, and teach you special techniques for silty areas. After your sidemount course, you’ll know how to move through the water more gracefully and efficiently than you thought possible.

Furthermore, you’ll think about trim more than ever before and you’ll start to see how seemingly small things like the weight of your regulators and the buoyancy profile of your fins have huge impacts on a diver’s natural trim and you’ll learn how to effectively compensate for these things.


In sidemount, cylinders are mounted at your sides under your arms rather than on your back, giving you a much more streamlined profile. Even with two cylinders, propelling yourself through the water and maintaining proper trim feels much easier in sidemount than in single tank backmount.

If you have back or shoulder problems, you’ll likely find sidemount more comfortable in general because it allows more flexibility in those areas and the bulk of the weight is not on your spine.

During a proper sidemount course, you and your instructor will spend a lot of time adjusting your sidemount system to fit and function just right. You’ll also spend time trying to get properly trimmed and adjusting trim weight placement as needed. This part of the process may feel frustrating to some, but as soon as your system, weights, and trim are all right where they need to be you will realize it was well worth the trouble. When done properly, sidemount is an incredibly comfortable configuration to dive in.


One of the biggest benefits of sidemount is it offers true redundancy in case of a gas or regulator failure. When diving with two tanks in sidemount configuration you have two completely independent cylinders, first stages, and second stages. If one of these points fails, you have a backup.

In a proper sidemount course with a qualified instructor you will learn how to independently solve various equipment problems that could come up while diving. This training and configuration makes you more safe, more self-sufficient and less reliant on a buddy. Self-sufficiency is especially beneficial if you travel without a regular dive buddy and find yourself buddied up with strangers often. I’ll address more benefits of self-sufficiency, specifically solo-diver training, in a future post.


If you’re an air hog, or simply enjoy making long dives, sidemount configuration is a great way to carry more gas with you while staying streamlined. While diving twinset would be another way to have more gas, you may not be able to find twinset tanks at every single diving destination you visit. Another benefit of sidemount is that you do not need to hunt down special tanks to dive in sidemount configuration.


If you don’t have interest in tech diving right now, that’s perfectly fine. However, training and experience diving in sidemount configuration will help you gain confidence and leave you well-prepared for any technical training that you may want to do in the future. And it may be just the thing that convinces you to try technical diving after all. 😉

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Dive Training Blogs

Skills Workshop: Hovering Neutrally Buoyant



By Mark Lewis

I’ve recently been coaching some divers on ways to improve their neutral buoyancy hover when in the water. A common thing I’ve seen is a diver maintaining their buoyancy by finning. There are many reasons why this may happen, including weighting, kit setup, etc.

After eliminating all of the other more common reasons, I’ve found it sometimes comes down to the students not being comfortable in their dry suits or simply not understanding how it works.

Sometimes dry suit training doesn’t incorporate everything that it should, as it often gets combined with other training courses and appears to predominantly centre on resolving inversions rather than focusing on air migration.

What is air migration?

Simply put, it’s utilizing the air in your dry suit to balance (trim) you in the water, allowing you to maintain a neutrally buoyant hover in the water column.

To teach air migration, I use a skill where I take a student into shallow waters (maybe six metres) and get them comfortable on a training platform with handholds on it, so that if they do have a problem, they can hold onto the platform initially whilst they get used to the skill. Then, we remove our fins and focus on our hovering.

Fins provide propulsion, so without them on, a diver’s senses are heightened, and they notice immediately when things don’t feel right, allowing them to compensate with the air in their suit rather than with their fins.

The reason I choose to do this with no fins is that it helps them focus on the air migration in the suit, without compensating by finning, thus allowing the diver to focus on their breathing and their dry suit as their means of buoyancy. In order to maintain the neutrality of their position once they have the right balance of air in their suit, the diver can continually adjust by controlling their breathing.

How long should this drill last?

I’ve found that in an hour’s session, maybe the first twenty minutes are tough, with a lot of corrections and adjustments… and then in most cases, it clicks, and the diver can maintain their position without much effort. Once they’ve attained this skill of hovering, other tasks and skills become more achievable.

Bring in the fins

Then, when they put their fins back on, it simplifies everything, and suddenly the diver has a new perspective on neutral buoyancy hovering. This ultimately makes them a safer diver and improves their competency.

I will add that this is not a skill required within any course that I teach, but something I do occasionally in a skills workshop to help divers progress. In my experience, it works, but if you’re going to try it, ensure that you have an understanding buddy who is happy to keep an eye out for you.

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Red Sea Northern Wrecks & Reefs plus Tiran

Custom built itinerary scheduled to include Abu Nuhas wrecks, the SS Thistlegorm, the fabulous reefs at Ras Mohamed including Shark Reef, then over to Tiran to dive Gordon, Jackson, Thomas and Woodhouse reefs.

You’ll visit any number of other wrecks including the beautiful Carnatic and the wrecks of the Giannis D, the Chrisoula K and the Marcus, all at Abu Nuhas.  And you can’t miss the Rosalie Moeller and the Dunraven!


But this trip isn’t just about wrecks – far from it! Ras Mohammed, the protected marine reserve of the Red Sea, delivers schooling fish, spectacular corals, and we drop-in numerous times on the best sites before heading over to Tiran to dive the immense reefs of Gordon, Jackson and Woodhouse.


What are you going to see? The most stunning corals, abundant marine life, and exceptional wrecks. Turtles, Napoleon wrasse, morays, dolphins, maybe a manta, and perhaps even whale sharks. Hammerheads off the back of Jackson Reef are a possibility, and don’t forget the little critters either! This trip delivers, time and time again.


From £1599 per person based on double occupancy.  Full board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £695pp.  Stay in a deluxe chalet on a soft all-inclusive basis and enjoy 10 guided shore dives and unlimited, unguided house reef diving.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.


This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!


Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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